Environmental Considerations in Transport

Dr. Pawan Kumar, Associate TCP, Town & Country Planning Organization, M/o Urban Development, Govt. of India, New Delhi.


Environmental Considerations in Transport
Figure 1: Gangtok Aerial Ropeway, Sikkim
The availability and usage of different motorized modes of transport not only affect the environment but also contribute to global warming and climate change. Similarly, planning, designing and development of transport projects and construction of transport infrastructure also impact the environment and therefore environment considerations and their assessment is vital. It is well known fact that transport has significant detrimental effects on both built and natural environment along with human beings. Such effects have lifelong impacts and therefore the same may be mitigated at different stages of planning, designing, construction and operation. In this context, it is important to carry out the assessment of the consequences of programs, policies and projects related to transport on environment at micro and macro level.
Environmental Considerations in Transport

Environmental Considerations in Transport
Figure 2: Revival of Trams in the Walled City as Part of the Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Plan (HT Photo published in HT Delhi Edition dated 24.01.2017)
Transport is a means to carry man, materials, machines, goods, etc. from one location to another location by using various methods/modes. In fact, it involves mobility of people, carrying of goods, and delivery of services from local level to global level. In other words, such mobility needs creation of world class transport infrastructure, environmental sustainable modes of transport and good governance. On the contrarily, such transport infrastructure projects / plan implementation/policies formulation have repercussions on various environmental components such as air quality, noise pollution, carbon emission, public health, etc. Therefore, environmental considerations are important to assess in plan formulation and project implementation which is described in Table 1.

Generally, major transport infrastructure projects need environmental analysis which is done under certain environmental legislations. Further, it is important to estimate and address the impacts of transport infrastructure development at both micro and meso level. Therefore, Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) are used as step-by step methodology for environmental analysis.

Table 1: Environmental Considerations in Transport Plans Formulation and Projects Implementation

S.N. Plans Formulation & Projects Implementation Affected Components Environmental Considerations
i. Location of Project Human Population including built & natural environment. Control of soil erosion, air pollution, disposal of waste to  protect human health
ii. Components of plans / projects Route alignments, corridor development, transit nodes, etc. affect urban fabric and environment.    Considerations for landuse & ecology, air/water/noise pollution,  visual impacts, etc.
iii. Construction of urban roads Human habitation along the roads / expressways, etc. in terms of severance, surface vibrations, etc. Check for dust generation, air pollution, noise pollution, etc.
iv. Construction of foot over bridges (FOB), flyovers, bridges, et. Impact on surface/  ground water hydrology, noise level, visual intrusion, etc. Check for underground water quality, noise pollution along the transit corridors particularly in residential areas.
v. Underground infrastructure such as underground stations, bus terminals, multimodal integration hub, etc.    Impact on water ecology, underground vibration, natural drainage, etc. Protection of water qualities, water bodies, natural slopes, etc.
vi. Public Transport System such as ARTS, BRTS, LRTS, MRTS, PRTS, etc. Commuters, air quality,  built environment & plantations along the transit corridors, etc. Check for air quality, noise exposure, loss of trees, landscape change & ecological change, etc.
vii. Transport infrastructure in hilly Terrains Impact on flora & fauna, natural environment, geological conditions, etc. Protection of natural environment
viii. Provisions of Public Transport Terminals such as Bus Depots, ISBT, Railway Terminals, Multi Modal Interchange Stations, Rail-Bus Integration Nodes etc.  Impact on micro environment, air, noise, surface water, etc. Checks for air pollution, noise pollution, oil pollution, dust generation, etc.
ix. Manoeuvre & Movement Affecting schools, hospitals, residential areas, periphery of water bodies, etc. Provisions to avoid air /noise pollution in such areas.
x. Road side Landscape Affecting natural beauty, roadside plantation, agriculture lands, natural vegetation, etc. Route planning and geometric design of roads to preserve natural beauty & vegetation.

Strategic Environmental Assessment

The Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) introduces environmental considerations in decision making process at early stage of policy decision and plan formulation which further allows decision makers to focus on environmental effects of tactical choices. It helps to consider wide range of alternative proposals and mitigation measures earlier than EIA at project level. According to Asian Development Bank, SEA cannot be restricted to environmental considerations only as most of the time, implementation of programs and policies also effect social and economic developments which further cause indirect environmental deprivation.

In other words, Strategic Environmental Assessment is a process:
  • to evaluate environmental consequen- ces of a proposed policy, program and plan initiative,
  • to incorporate preventive and mitiga- ted measures at appropriate levels of decision making process along with socio-economic considerations.
Further, Strategic Environmental Assessment, as a part of systematic decision support process for statutory & non-statutory proposals, other policies/plans/ programs, may be focused on impact assessment and improvement strategies. The same may be emphasised on good governance, institutional setup, scientific ways to policy formulation mechanism, and public participation which are directly and indirectly dealing with/affected by environmental, social and economic effects of program, policies and plans. Furthermore, SEA may be applied widely and apparently to assess policies and programs prepared by the Govt. through suitable methods and effective techniques.

Strategic Environmental Assess- ment in Transport Policy, Program, and Plan

In India, Strategic Environmental Assessment in Transport Policy, Program, and Plan has not yet been considered by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India but its considerations at Policy, Program, and Plan formulation stage can be helpful to understand and choose various options and planning interventions at macro level. Finally, selection of such actions, interventions and activities may help to choose projects which have minimum impacts on the environment in long term even after 5 to 10 years. Table 2 describes various steps to conduct SEA in transport policy and program.

Table 2: Steps in Strategic Environmental Assessment in Transport Program, Policy and Plan

S.N. Steps Descriptions Remarks
i. Screening & Scoping It is applicable for all city level mobility plans including traffic plans. Useful for those programs which may be associated directly and indirectly with transport infrastructure development.
ii. Establishing the Baseline Baseline refers existing conditions before any urban mobility policy / program / plan implementation against which subsequent changes may be referenced. Useful for all urban mobility policy/program/plan which may affect environment directly or indirectly by the proposed plan and planning interventions.
iii. Impact Assessment It is to carrying out impact assessment. It may include assessment of objectives and recommendations /outputs of program /plan. Useful in assessment of potential impacts, secondary impacts, unforeseen impacts, cumulative impacts, etc. 
Useful in identification and assessment of need of alternative scenarios.
iv. Mitigating Impacts It includes elude and prevent environmental impacts at planning level of the program/plan and identify alternate transport options.
Useful to minimize and control adverse environmental impacts through planning interventions such as selection of alternate sites, modified alignment, use of updated technology, etc. at implementation level .
v. Monitoring and Evaluation Formulation of Monitoring Plan and identify criteria for evaluation. Useful at different level of plan implementation and operation stages.

Strategic Environmental Assess- ment of Gujarat State Highways Program

It was an initiative taken by the Govt. of Gujarat with the help of World Bank to improve the State Highways. It was aimed at widening and strengthening a set of economically feasible State Highways. The project feasibility study selected 8 18 km of roads for improvement with the available budget. The environmental team undertook the Sectoral Environmental Assessment (SEA) for the total 818 km of roads. The objectives of the SEA were:
  • to perform an environmental screen- ing of the project corridors in order to classify each road corridor as high, medium or low levels of impact.
  • to provide practical plan for mitigating and monitoring the impacts which would occur as result of the road rehabilitation and construction activities as well as due to future operation of the road corridors.
  • to design and implement Environmental Management Unit (EMU), intended to act as a unit implementing the Environmental Action Management Plan and Resettlement Action Plan on behalf of Gujarat Road and Building Deptt., Govt. of Gujarat.
The major components of Highway programs and SEA outputs have been described in Table 3.

Table 3: Strategic Environmental Assessment of Gujarat State Highways Program

S.N Highway Program Components Details of Program Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Components Outcomes and Learning Experience
i. Road Improvement
(widening/   strengthening )  
818 km of State Highways were selected under this program. Project was financed by the World Bank. Team was constituted to undertake SEA for this program SEA was conducted to assess impacts of proposed program on both natural environment and social environment.
Methodology was framed to collect data on natural and social environmental features along the corridor of impacts including no. of residential /commercial units likely to be affected, adjacent land uses, loss of trees, water bodies, archaeological sites affected, etc. Assessment was done and impacts were classified as low, medium and high level impact. Impact assessment on both natural and social environment was done during construction and operations of the road corridors. SEA suggested mitigated measures during early design stage such as:
-To avoid unnecessary displacement by modifying project alignment, reducing the width of the corridor or modifying design,
-To reduce the width of the right-of-way(RoW) or corridor of impact wherever possible, -To ensure access to business and residential areas that may have been impacted by construction, -To use the land outside the RoW controlled by Gujarat Road and Building Deptt. , but not needed after construction, to relocate people, -To minimize the losses to users of public property, such as the tree plantations within the RoW, restricting the cleared zone to an absolute minimum width within given design and safety constraints, -To find new plots and houses on the open market for relocating, -To provide roadside amenities such as bus stops, lane markings for         non-motorized traffic along the paved shoulder
Based on low, medium and high level impact, the same was categorised as short term and long term impacts. Mitigation measures were recommended during construction and operation phases.  Preventive and Mitigation actions were suggested in order to minimise impacts on air, water, noise, flora & fauna. Environmental Management Action Plan was prepared with mitigation measures in the construction and operation phases of the project. Resettlement Action Plan was prepared to compensate for the losses in terms of land, livelihood, structure damage, community property, other assets, etc. Two corridors (bypasses) were identified for new construction and were classified as high impact category project. Other parts of corridor were classified as medium and low impact category project. Mitigation measures under EMAP were needs to be implemented.
ii. Periodic maintenance
(asphalt overlays)
iii. Institutional Development

Environmental Considerations for Alternate Modes of Transport
Aerial Ropeways (Cable Car)

Environmental Considerations in Transport
Figure 3: Aerial Ropeways in Singapore
Modern transport is technology driven vehicles which carry both men and materials. The selection of technology depends on various factors such as to meet travel demand, urban fabric, density pattern, life-cycle costs, environmental impacts, etc. The conventional public transport systems such as MRTS, BRTS, LRTS, buses, etc. have their own importance to meet travel demands in respective areas. Contrarily, the same may not hold good in mountainous areas and hilly terrains due to geographical, topographical and natural constraints. In this context, several unconventional transit technologies are developed with specific purposes for specific geographical regions/areas to provide comfortable, environmental sustainable and efficient mobility. One of such technologies is aerial ropeway(cable car) which is widely used in geographical constrained areas and areas with topographical barriers.

As per EIA Notification 2006 (amended in 2009 and 2011), all Aerial Ropeway Projects falls under “Physical Infrastructure including Environmental Services” category need Environmental Clearance which details are given in Table 4.

Table 4: Aerial Ropeways Project requiring Environmental Clearance as per EIA Notification, 2006

Project or Activity Category with Threshold Limit Condition
    Category-A Category-B  
1 2 3 4 5
7 (g) Aerial Ropeways All projects located at altitude of 1000.00 mt and above. All project located in notified ecologically sensitive areas. All projects except those covered in column 3 General Conditions*

During 2010, then Ministry of Environment and Forest, Govt. of India decided to bring out EIA Sector Specific Manuals for 37 development projects and “EIA Guidance Manual for Aerial Ropeways” is one of them. The manual of each sector contains Model TOR of that sector, technological options, process for cleaner production, waste minimization, monitoring of environmental quality and procedure of obtaining environmental clearance under certain regulations.

Table 5: Environmental Impacts Checklist for Tramway System in Chandani Chowk Area (DMRC 2015)

S.N. Parameters Negative Impacts No impacts Positive impacts
A. Impacts due to Project Location
A1 Displacement of People  
A2 Change of Land use and Ecology
A3 Loss of Cultural and Religious Structures  
A4 Socio-economic Impacts
A5 Loss of Trees
A6 Drainage & Utilities Problems
B. Impact due to Project Design
B1 Platforms - Inlets and Outlets  
B2 Ventilation and Lighting  
B3 Station Refuse
B4 Risk due to Earthquakes  
C. Impact due to Project Construction
C1 Top Soil Erosion, Pollution and Health risk
C2 Traffic Diversions
C3 Risk to Existing Buildings  
C4 Problems of Soil Disposal and Seepage Risk
C5 Dust Generation
C6 Increased Water Demand
C7 Supply of Construction Material
C8 Construction and Demolition Waste 
C9 Batching Plant and Casting Yard
C10 Noise
D. Impact due to Project Operation
D1 Oil Pollution  
D2 Noise
D3 Water supply and sanitation
D4 Pedestrian Issues  
D5 Visual Impacts  
D6 Station Illumination  
D7 Employment Opportunities    
D8 Enhancement of Economy    
D9 Mobility    
D10 Safety    
D11 Traffic Congestion Reduction    

Aerial ropeway (Cable Car) is known as aerial tram, sky tram, aerial tramway, etc. and also called as Udan Khatola, Gagan Khatola, etc.in India. It is considered as Environmental Sustainable Transport (EST) due to following reasons:
  • Relatively low carbon foot prints.
  • Electric engine /motor used at Stations which cause less pollution.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions credit system just like Medellin Cable Car, Colombia.
  • Cable car vehicles have no motors and therefore no noise and air pollution along the route.
  • Little disturbance in micro environment during both construction and operation.
Further, the suitable Cable Car technology may provide viable and feasible transit mode and development of aerial ropeway fulfills all three criteria of smart city i.e.
  • Creation of infrastructure,
  • Smart solution for smart mobility in undulating terrain
  • Suitable for area based development.(Retrofitting / Redevelopment / New Development)
In Indian context, there is lot of potential to explore the use of aerial ropeway as mass transit. The Govt. departments, transport agencies, cable car manufacturers, etc. need to take interest and initiatives to use and promote the same as alternative mode of transport.

Tram (Light Rail Transit)

Now-a-days, varieties of transport modes are available in Indian cities. Instead of putting a new system, there is always scope to upgrade the existing system from low capacity to medium capacity with less travel time and more comfort along with modern facilities within affordable cost. In this context, revival of tram and a shift from tram to Light Rail Transit have its own potential to change the face and image of public transport in small and medium sized Indian cities.

Environmental Considerations in Transport
Figure 4: Road Space for Tram and other Modes of Transport, Toyama (Japan)
Trams were first introduced in Delhi in 1908 but the service was stopped due to congestion in 1960s. In July 2015, the Govt. of Delhi had planned to reintroduce trams as public transport in Chandani Chowk area but the same was scrapped due to high infrastructure cost (i.e. Rs 800.00crore for 4.3 km long track) and it was decided to run e-buses in September 2015. After the interfering of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in January 2017, Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation has been assigned to prepare a comparative study of plying of trams and e-buses in the Walled City of Delhi.

However, DMRC has prepared DPR for Tramway System in Chandani Chowk Area, and environmental study was carried out for the proposed alignment in April 2015. The impacts were assessed for various phases of project cycle. The impacts were categorized as negative and positive due to
  1. Project Location,
  2. Project Design,
  3. Construction Phase and
  4. Project Operation.
Further, areas of tree plantation cleared needs to be replaced according to Compensatory Afforestation Policy under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. Trees need to be planted against every tree felled as per norms by the Forest Department, Govt. of Delhi.

Discussion and Concluding Remarks
  1. Due to global warming and climate change, environmental concern in transport policy and transport infrastructure project is vital. It needs integration of environmental aspects in policy, plan and program formulation and project implementation so that preventive, mitigated and preparedness provisions and strategies may be incorporated at appropriate level before final decision sand execution.
  2. At project level, environmental concern in pre-construction, construction and post-construction phase help to identify potential environmental implications and adopt strategies to mitigate such impacts. Environmental and sustainable development has socio-economic, cultural and public health dimensions which are assessed during conducting SEA and EIA. Therefore, selection of appropriate transport options is more appropriate and scientific.
  3. Public consultation is an important part of EIA process for all projects under categories “A” and “B1”. Such provisions make EIA procedure more transparent and inclusive. Environmental cost benefit analysis recommended by expert appraisal committee at screening and scoping stage, incorporates value addition in EIA study.
  4. However, SEA and EIA as environmental analysis tools have own significance in both plan (program) formulation and project implementation. It is important to recognize importance of SEA in Indian context and provide statutory status of the same. Further, scope of EIA may be extended to cover major and mega transport infrastructure projects apart from port & harbour, highways, aerial ropeways and airports.
  5. The aerial ropeways have a great impact on environmental conservation. It reduces the fleet of motorized vehicles on the road used to transport man, materials, tea-leaves from estate to factory, vegetables from production belt to consumption market, etc. particularly in hilly areas. In fact, it leads to reduced carbon generation, reduced cost of road maintenance and reduced environmental degradation caused by heavy motorized vehicles.
  6. Sometimes, the retrofitting and new development of the areas in hilly States may be benign with development of “area and need based mode of transport”. The planning of aerial ropeways corridor, construction of lower terminal stations, upper terminal stations, development of surrounding areas near towers, etc. may promote implementation of transit oriented development in newly developed and redeveloped areas in hilly terrains.
  7. Tram is a sub-category of LRT rather than distinct transport mode but it may be a good feeder mode for close transit systems such as metro, monorail, suburban rail, etc. However, operation of tram may reduce personalized vehicles in CBD areas, walled cities, historical core areas, etc. and replace minibus, auto, cycle rickshaw, etc. which may further reduce demands for parking spaces, vehicular pollution, road accidents, etc. In this context, an initiative needs to be taken to establish Tram as one of the modes of environmental sustainable transport and also recognize as alternative mode of public transport.
  1. Asian Development Bank (1997), Environmental Impact Assessment for Developing Countries in Asia, ADB Publication.
  2. Kumar, Pawan (2007), Land Development Project and EIA in Urban Development in Ta’i, Murphy, P. and Rana, P.S.(Editors-2007), Environmental Impact Assessment : An Indo-Australian, Book well Publication, New Delhi, pp 235-241.
  3. Kumar, Pawan (2015), Revival of LRT (Tram) in Urban Area, Case Study: Hiroshima (Japan), 8th Urban Mobility India Conference, Nov 24-27, 2015, New Delhi.
  4. Kumar, Pawan (2016a), Cable Car (Ropeway): An Alternate Mode of Transport, Indian Journal for Transport Management, July –September 2016, pp 136-144.
  5. Kumar, Pawan (2016b), Light Rail Transit in Urban India: Scopes and Opportunities, 4th Annual South Asia Transport Infrastructure Conference 2016, Sept 19-20, 2016 at New Delhi.
  6. Kumar, Pawan (2017), Tram to Light Rail Transit for Smart Mobility, Architecture- Time, Space & People (Journal of Council of Architecture), February 2017, Vol 17, Issue 2,pp 36-44.
  7. Ministry of Urban Development (2014), Development of Toolkit on Environmental Analysis: SEA and EIA under SUTP Program, MoUD, New Delhi.
  8. MoEF (2006), EIA Notification, Gazette Notification. (Published in the Gazette of India, Extraordinary, Part-II, and Section 3, Sub-section, dated 14th September, 2006)
  9. Roads & Building Deptt (1998) Gujarat State Highways Project, Sectoral Environmental Assessment, E-228, Vol.-I, Final Report-2A, Govt. of Gujarat.
  10. UNEP (2002) EIA Training Resource Manual Division of Technology, Industry and Economics and Trade Branch, Geneva.
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