India: A bright future in terms of sustainability goals

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India’s development agenda and its priority programs and policies are in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the UN General Assembly is expected to come up with in 2015.

Poverty eradication, gender equality, affordable and reliable energy access for all; inclusive, safe, resilient cities and sustainable management of water and waste are some of the overarching goals proposed under the SDGs. These have consonance with three of India’s priority programs—namely, the ‘100 Smart Cities’, the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ and ‘Make in India’.

The 100 Smart Cities program will enable evolution of safe, resilient and sustainable cities through implementation of green retrofit, redevelopments and new developments; while the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a pan-India cleanliness drive meant to accomplish sanitation for all and is a policy driver to practice sustainable solid waste management.

The Make in India program is designed to foster innovation, enhance skill development and transform India into a manufacturer’s dream destination. This, in turn, is expected to yield sustained and inclusive economic growth and industrialization, another key determinant of sustainable development.

Smart Cities

Will these objectives be achieved in a desirable time frame with sustained results? The 100 Smart Cities program holds promise, but key to success will be effective implementation and availability of finances. The government of India plans to provide seed capital, but identified cities must access suitable expertise and financing to accomplish the activities.

The likely government contribution to each identified smart city shall be about US$162.7 million (INR10 billion) over a ten-year-period, which means that these cities have to rely on innovative financing and equity participation from other stakeholders in order to realize the dream of a smart city.

India’s 13th Finance Commission has estimated that the collection efficiency for property taxes, a key revenue source, stands at a low 37 percent. This phenomenon has precluded cities from providing even the most basic public services to their citizens. For instance, 40 percent of Hyderabad’s population lacks access to direct water supply connections, and 50 percent of households in Bangalore do not have sewerage connections. So, in a way the cities have to meet ever-increasing infrastructure gaps first.

It is also true that provision for smartness in terms of better communication and connectivity, smart distribution, monitoring and metering among other measures can help cities to be more efficient, reduce wastage and help bridge infrastructure gaps. For example, smart grids can reduce transmission and distribution losses, improve conversion efficiency and thus make electricity distribution more efficient and reliable.

The other two programs, namely Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Make in India, can collectively contribute to achievement of goals of the smart cities initiative. Thus, integration of schemes, priorities and funding are necessary. Needless to mention, all these programme outputs will collectively feed into the SDG objective. Habitats and buildings are two key components of cities that need attention. With 70 percent of commercial building stock yet to come up, the ever-increasing demand for energy in buildings needs to be contained.

Electricity Demand

The electricity demand of the building sector in urban areas shall rise to about 237,000 gigawatt hours by 2020, which is about three times the 2010—2011 levels. The good part of the story is that nearly 200 million megawatt hours per annum can be saved if all new buildings are efficient and a minimum of 10 percent of the existing stock is made efficient through retrofits. This translates into 42,000 megawatts of savings in installed capacity of power plants. Though the Energy Conservation Building Code has been in place since 2007, the market is still not geared to embrace it fully.

GRIHA, the national green building rating system developed by TERI with the active cooperation from the ministry of new and renewable energy, mandates compliance with the Energy Conservation Building Code. Limited providers and lack of indigenous products and services, and missing awareness push up the costs and makes implementation a real challenge. The Make in India programme should be able to give specific incentives to green product manufacturing.

The challenges in implementation are many, but the willingness of the government to achieve results on ground through a multi-stakeholder participation is commendable. The Delhi Sustainable Development Summit being organised by TERI between 5—7 February, will deliberate these issues.

Source: Asian Scientist

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