What is the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor all about? Part II

Quick Note: This post is the second of a two-part series on the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.

In the previous post, I discussed the scale and context of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor. The project has been billed as so wide-reaching that its own objectives have been changing over the years. For instance, the development of MRTS projects and a solar plant have been added to the DMIC’s ambit, along with providing expertise for building a convention centre in the national capital![1] I broadly discussed some of the socio-economic concerns arising out of the project last time. In this post, I would like to focus on some specific environmental concerns raised as a result of going through with the project.

One, the foundational idea behind the corridor will enhance carbon dioxide emissions and increase vehicular traffic. Two, the corridor passes through extremely water-scarce regions in the country and will create an even greater stress on the water resources. Three, the corridor will pass through important bio-reserves and will create threats to the quantum of biodiversity in India. Let us look at each of them in detail.

First, the very idea of the industrial corridor is based on equating wider roads with better development. The plan to make a new, wide highway for the movement of private vehicles is going to promote the use of self-driven vehicles for private as well as commercial purposes. Carbon emissions will only increase due to greater usage of vehicles. Further, environment clearances have already been given for four thermal and gas-based power plants across the corridor.[2] Such conventional uses of energy will increase carbon emissions and add to the degrading standard of air quality in northern India. This clearly indicates that the idea of developing ‘smart cities’ is merely a cosmetic one because they are based in fuel generated by thermal power and increasing vehicular usage. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has recognized the potential for reduction in carbon dioxide emissions through extensive use of the dedicated freight corridor in a report on the DMIC.[3] But this is made redundant by the use of fossil fuel resources for power generation and for the promotion of vehicular usage over large distances. It will also waste a lot of existing resources because there are a number of urban centers, such as Pithampur in Madhya Pradesh, which already have an inventory of unused factories etc. and the construction of entirely new zones will waste a lot of resources and impact the environment and worsen it.

Second, the project disregards the water needs for irrigation in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh or the needs of the farmers or residents of these areas.[4] The DMIC seeks to take two-thirds of its water needs from rivers and the remaining from groundwater.[5] Farmers and other users already face great strain while retrieving water for agriculture and other purposes. Even existing cities, such as Manesar, Indore, and Surat, along the corridor use water from the same resources and there has been no ecological assessment of how the DMIC could use water sustainably without affecting the needs and usage of the existing users. Rivers require at least 50% of their volume to remain in the rivers to ensure that they are able to self-replenish and self-clean.[6] However, if the DMIC plan is put into operation, then all the rivers will have no volume left for their preservation. In fact, such is the desperation that the DMIC seeks to draw water even from seasonal rivers such as the Luni, in Rajasthan.[7] Further, not only will this industrial plan destroy the rivers but it will also affect the groundwater levels and its quantity. The rise in new cities and increasing population settlements will take up a lot of the groundwater and the new industries being set up will also contaminate and pollute the groundwater simultaneously. The perspective plan of the DMIC itself acknowledges that two-thirds of the districts under the DMIC are in overexploited or critical stages as far as groundwater is concerned.[8]

Third, the DMIC is having a major impact on the wildlife and biodiversity along its route. In terms of forests/mangroves, towards the southern part of the project, a lot of mangrove forests as well the foothills of the Western Ghats are prone to being overrun by the expansion of roads and rail lines. The conversion of land use from the adjoining fertile land to industrial zones or airports will also cause ecological damage to the leeward side of the Western Ghats.[9]In a specific instance of directly impacting wildlife, the DMIC passes through Balaram Ambaji Wildlife Sanctuary that is known to contain sloth bear and leopard populations.[10] However, the National Board for Wildlife cleared the proposal for laying railway tracks through the sanctuary without requiring any preconditions such as the erection of fences.[11] More recently, the Board recommended doubling the width of a road passing through the same wildlife sanctuary.[12] Just as speeding cars have reduced the panther population in southern Rajasthan, speeding trains have now been granted authority to subject sloth bears and leopards to the same fate.

 

[1]About IICCL, DELHI MUMBAI INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (DMICDC),http://www.dmicdc.com/iicc;About DMICDC – An Overview, DELHI MUMBAI INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (DMICDC), available at: http://www.dmicdc.com/about-DMICDC.

[2]Power Projects: Environmental Clearance, DELHI MUMBAI INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (DMICDC), available at: http://www.dmicdc.com/cpage.aspx?pgid=62.

[3]Prem Pangotra and PR Shukla, Promoting Low Carbon Transport in India, Infrastructure for Low-Carbon Transport in India: A Case Study of the Delhi-Mumbai Dedicated Freight Corridor, UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAM (UNEP), August 2012, available at: http://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/16964/DFC.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

[4]Nitin Desai, This Corridor is Paved with Bad Policies, TEHELKA, August 11, 2012, available at: http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main53.asp?filename=Op110812corridor.asp.

[5]Romi Khosla and Vikram Soni, Delhi-Mumbai Corridor: A Water Disaster in the Making?, Vol. XLVII, No. 10, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY, March 10, 2012, p. 16, available at: http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/Delhi-Mumbai%20Corridor.pdf.

[6]Romi Khosla and Vikram Soni, Delhi-Mumbai Corridor: A Water Disaster in the Making?, Vol. XLVII, No. 10, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY, March 10, 2012, p. 16, available at: http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/Delhi-Mumbai%20Corridor.pdf.

[7]Nitin Desai, This Corridor is Paved with Bad Policies, TEHELKA, August 11, 2012, available at: http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main53.asp?filename=Op110812corridor.asp.

[8]Downloads, DMICDC, available at: http://www.dmicdc.com/frmDownloads.aspx?pgid=43; Romi Khosla and Vikram Soni, Delhi-Mumbai Corridor: A Water Disaster in the Making?, Vol. XLVII, No. 10, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY, March 10, 2012, p. 16, available at: http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/Delhi-Mumbai%20Corridor.pdf.

[9]Raksha Kumar, Delhi Mumbai Corridor, How the World’s Largest Infrastructure Project is Uprooting Indian Farmers, THE GUARDIAN, September 15, 2015, available at: http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/sep/15/indias-future-dmic-delhi-mumbai-industrial-corridor.

[10]Himanshu Kaushik, Bear Safety on Wrong Track, TIMES OF INDIA, January 28, 2015, available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Bear-safety-on-wrong-track/articleshow/46035984.cms.

[11]Himanshu Kaushik, Bear Safety on Wrong Track, TIMES OF INDIA, January 28, 2015, available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Bear-safety-on-wrong-track/articleshow/46035984.cms.

[12]Minutes of the 47thMeeting of the Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife, F.No. 6-4/2018 WL, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Wildlife Division), Government of India, February 7, 2018, http://www.moef.gov.in/sites/default/files/Minutes%20of%2047th%20meeting%20of%20Standing%20Committee%20of%20National%20Board%20for%20Wildlife%20%281%29.pdf.

City Game Session at Genwise

What do a bunch of adolescents between 12-14 years of age have in common? Capris, shorts and t-shirts when they don’t have to wear a uniform? Ask a lot of questions, are not afraid to say what they are thinking and have all seen the recent Black Panther movie. At least the group we conducted a City Game session for at the Genwise summer school had.

The City Game is designed to explore urban form and elicit a group/individual’s preferences about their city. The game also allows for its participants to reflect upon why we imagine our cities the way we do. The students in this group were a part of the course ‘Perspectives in Tackling Wicked Problems’ and they belonged to grades 7 to 9. As the ritual goes, we had a short round of introductions and then we proceeded to the session.

There were two parts to the session at Genwise. In the first part, the students were asked to silently reflect upon what they understood by a ‘smart city’.

The second part involved playing the City game.

“Do we build a democratic city? Are we placing social concepts or infrastructure?” asked one of the students. “It’s completely up to you”, I replied. “So then what kind of a city do we build?” “A city you want to live in”. With all the clarifications in place, the gameplay began.

Negotiations started early. The kids immediately jumped on to the blocks and started building roads, business parks, sewerage treatment plants, sports centre, foot over bridges, BRT corridors, a historic statue, airport and more. Some interesting highlights were that a jail was placed before a police station was conceived of. Road networks were placed around first in order to ensure easy mobility. A lot of blue, pink and yellow tape was ripped and stuck around to ensure that the BRT corridors don’t get confused by a highway or a metro line. Somewhere near the 5th round (or half time), one or two in the group began to panic as to whether the city has its basic infrastructure in place or not. As the group had started to break and move around and the energy seemed to dip a little, a list was put on the white board and a number of things were listed on them. “Now we can track what we are building and have something to reference in case we miss out”. Slowly fire stations, public toilets, schools, hospitals, a windmill field, a car showroom, five-star hotel, railway stations, a library, and even an orphanage showed up. By the 8thround, the city had been built and it was time for lunch.

“Would you like to live in this city?” “Yes!” said two, “No!”, said the others. “Why?” we asked. In the debrief session, the students reflected upon this city that was built. A city that despite being built around the roads and other transit systems, seemed congested. Where did the poor live in this city? Some expressed their disappointment that the city was not built for different kinds of people (especially the people they had listed on the post-its before the game). Some said that the city was too congested around the business park. One even said that the city is not the same as her home town Chennai, which is why she wouldn’t want to live in it. There were a lot of ways to move around in the city, but who all could move around was not clear.

What is the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor all about? Part I

Quick note: This post is the first of a two-part series on the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.

“Initially, it used to happen once or twice a month, later it decreased to 2-3 times a year, and now we can just drive by without worrying about it at all”, claimed Shiva, a taxi driver who frequently drives between Udaipur, Rajasthan and Palanpur, Gujarat, a route that forms a significant area of influence under the upcoming Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). What Shiva was referring to is the number of panthers killed by speeding vehicles while crossing the highway from a lake to the forest.

The DMIC is an urban expansion project that aims to span the entire western sector of India. It is envisaged to include a high-speed road and rail corridor, with dedicated freight lines, as well as the construction of ‘smart cities’, new industrial regions and green field airports.[1] Along the entire corridor, it seeks to give impetus to industrial growth and create an industrial belt to achieve sustained economic growth for India. The plan has an influence area from Delhi to Mumbai covering over 400,000 square kms.[2] It is going to pass through the states of Uttar Pradesh, where it will begin in Dadri, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, where it will end at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port, which is a distance of almost 1500 kms.[3]

The project is not a novel idea in terms of its substance. In fact, developing urban areas with large-scale infrastructure and investment in capital goods has for long been considered as a spur for urban and consequent economic growth. To provide some context for urban development, a couple of centuries ago the total urban population of the world was not more than 250 million, which was less than a fifth of the then existing population.[4] Today, India, at 34% of urban population, has more than double the people in urban areas alone than this entire figure.[5] For the first time in the history of the world, in this century, more people (4.1 billion, or 55% of the world’s population) are living in urban areas than in rural locations.[6] Given the push for urban development as a way to increase household incomes and wealth[7], this growth is seen most visibly in developing nations, with the largest urban agglomerate areas such as Mumbai, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, and Beijing, in developing countries.

By their very nature, large-scale projects, especially those in developing countries, are dependent on angel funding (either by States or private players) for their development. The sheer scale of some of these projects makes it crucial to discuss their potential implications on a variety of aspects – socio-economic, environmental, and financial.

The plan for the DMIC is in line with this strategy of building larger and new cities. It has been touted as a game changer for addressing India’s existing problems in messy urbanization. It is going to be a huge investment over a number of years, with the estimated project cost alone estimated at Rs. 6, 30, 000 crore or Rs. 6.3 trillion (USD 90 billion).[8]

It relies on policy measures that various urban growth models have experimented with, such as engaging the private sector for essential infrastructure development, building green field parallel to existing urban centers, and relying on different forms of international aid, soft loans, or State support for funding models. This can create a multitude of obligations in terms of monetizing land, sourcing requirements, conditional use of funds, and even bilateral relations (in cases of international funding).

The next question then is, given these financial risks, if such projects are at least meant to benefit the entire population. The answer, unsurprisingly, is no. Building MRTS systems or airports systematically excludes those who cannot pay for the high cost of such services. Further, these projects necessarily require continuous funding for the maintenance of the infrastructure. As a result, such attempts at growth often serve to increase the wedge of inequality in society by depriving locals of their land, privatizing profits from the area and creating livelihood insecurity for those living in the region.

In the next post, I will discuss some specific environmental implications of the DMIC.

[1]About DMICDC – An Overview, DELHI MUMBAI INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (DMICDC), available at: http://www.dmicdc.com/about-DMICDC.

[2]Shantanu Guha Ray, A New Grand Trunk Road – For Industry, TEHELKA, February 16, 2008, available at: http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main37.asp?filename=Bu090208Grand_Trunk.asp.

[3]About DMICDC – An Overview, DELHI MUMBAI INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (DMICDC), available at: http://www.dmicdc.com/about-DMICDC.

[4]Rakesh Mohan and Shubhagato Dasgupta, Urban Development in India in the 21stCentury: Policies for Accelerating Urban Growth, Working Paper no. 231, STANFORD CENTRE FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, October 2004, p. 1, available at: https://globalpoverty.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/231wp.pdf.

[5]Urban Population (in %), THE WORLD BANK, available at: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.URB.TOTL.IN.ZS(last accessed on August 29, 2018).

[6]Urban Population Growth, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, available at: http://www.who.int/gho/urban_health/situation_trends/urban_population_growth_text/en/. (last accessed on August 29, 2018); Urban Population, THE WORLD BANK, available at: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.URB.TOTL(last accessed on August 29, 2018).

[7]Spence et al. (Eds.), Urbanization and Growth, COMMISSION ON GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT (THE WORLD BANK), 2009, https://siteresources.worldbank.org/EXTPREMNET/Resources/489960-1338997241035/Growth_Commission_Vol1_Urbanization_Growth.pdf.

[8]Metamorphosis – DMIC Overview, http://www.dmicdc.com/Uploads/Files/5df_dmic-overview.pdf.

Joint Road Forward – a new project

It is well known that in the immediate future, cities will continue to see growth across any of the given parameters: size, demographics, pollution, economy, etc. With this future scenario and with the advent of more data collection, we wanted to look at tools and methods that would be more inclusive of people during the urban planning stage.

It is in this context that we recently started a new project to look at the issue of mobility in cities. The project is a collaboration with International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore , TU Delft, The Netherlands and KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, focused on mobility in Indian and European cities. For this study we have selected Bangalore and the Randstad region in The Netherlands.

In this project we wanted to take a broader view of mobility and study how it is connected with the overall city in terms of livelihoods, commerce, livability and well-being. We plan to review the capability of current planning methods to incorporate the broader definition of mobility, and, to design new tools and methodologies to improve upon them.  

We are in the initial stages of our work which began a few months ago with a discussion on transport planning. We started studying the data from transport surveys. Transport is a key activity for livelihood (irrespective of location) in a city and often is an inevitable part of our expenditure when our work and home are located further away. This allows us to look at current approaches to transport planning.

Here I have to mention the that we stand on the shoulder of giants, i.e., transport planning already has a number of approaches to model travel in a city. One can look at speed (read: travel time), cost, comfort (or quality of service), etc. while designing transport infrastructure for a city. We are currently in the process of reviewing current planning methodologies.

We find that transport surveys indicated that there are groups of people who get excluded during transportation planning. Studying all the commuters allows us to create an inclusive map of travel demand across Bangalore. We will soon publish some of our methods and initial data. We have published an article on an approach to modelling people and their transport needs at APCOSEC’16 scheduled to be held in Bangalore in November 2016. A pre-publication copy and our presentation which are being prepared will be available on our website soon.

A few comments on ‘Our Metropolis’

Traffic woes in Bangalore are now taken to be “a given”. With the urban agglomeration crossing a population of 1 crore, and the vehicular population crossing 50 lakhs, 70% of which are two-wheelers, it has been long argued that what Bangalore needs is a mass-transit solution. The Namma Metro project has thus been heralded as a panacea for the traffic woes of Bangalore.

While the political and popular media rhetoric around the Metro has been that of its delays and/or its usefulness, what has not been as prevalent in the media are perspectives from people who have opposed the project for various reasons, be it the lack of transparency, the effect of political clout, not identifying other possible options, etc.

Gautam Sonti and Usha Rao’s movie Our Metropolis is one such attempt to show the story of the Metro (along with stories of the road widening efforts, and development of flyovers/signal free corridors in Bangalore) from these perspectives. We attended the screening of the movie at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) on 24 August, which was attended by the creators of the movie as well as a few of the people featured in the movie. The movie itself is not from an activist’s perspective. As Gautam and Usha said at the discussion after the screening, they are movie makers and observers, documenting what is close to their hearts – the dramatically changing landscape of Bangalore. And they question whether these changes are always for the better.

The movie follows the story of the Metro from 2008 to 2013, to show the side of things where people lost their homes, a large number of trees were felled, and political and executive clout suppressed voices which spoke against the project. From a transportation policy perspective, the movie documents some of the effects a top-down, non-transparent, ostensibly non-inclusive, and uncoordinated policy making has on people who live in the city, through the lenses of a few exemplars. The discussions following the movie primarily focussed on the shortcomings of the Metro and road widening projects in Bangalore, with two of the people featured in the movie arguing for other mass transit options.

As one of the people featured in the movie says, “Somehow the problem has become that of moving traffic, not people!”. Transportation infrastructure and policies have to reflect a broad-based, long-term goal of moving from a personal transport based travel to transit-based multi-modal ways of mobility. This, however, is easier said than done. To achieve this lofty goal, some of the things required are systemic changes in how policies are made, how contracting is carried out, how the infrastructure is governed, and what role each of the stakeholders at the city and State levels have.

So if one were to ask if long-term mass-transit options, which sometimes require a heavy upfront capital cost, are needed in Bangalore, the answer is probably a yes. The costs and benefits of such projects are always hard to calculate, but what is imperative to see instead is who are bearing these costs and who are reaping the benefits?

Finally, what is also required is a space for dialogue between the conflicting groups of people. With projects such as the Metro, there is inevitably going to be conflicts. But with a lack of dialogue, what results are echo chambers operating in silos, with one voice overpowering the others.