EcoLogistics Cities Show Way Forward for Government’s Freight Smart Cities Initiative  

Growing urbanisation and rapid economic growth in Indian cities have resulted in an exponential increase in urban freight activities. The demand for urban freight in the country is anticipated to grow by 140 percent over the next decade. However, due to lack of planning, the sector has significant externalities associated with first and last-mile freight movements, such as increasing air and noise pollution, and congestion, which are affecting public health and local economies. Therefore, the Logistics Division under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, envisages improving urban logistics in Indian cities.

To this end, the Logistics Division organised a national-level Consultative Meeting on the 2nd of July 2021 on developing the Freight Smart Cities Initiative in India. The focus was to enable an open discussion with urban local bodies, state governments, and relevant stakeholders on the initiative. The meeting, chaired by Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Sh Hardeep Singh Puri, also discussed the challenges and issues being faced by the cities in terms of planning and management of urban freight. The event was attended by more than 300 representatives from the Niti Aayog, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Indian Railways, State Governments and city-level urban bodies, and the Asian Development Bank, as well as the technical organisations such as ICLEI South Asia, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) Delhi and SPA Bhopal, Centre for Environment Planning and Technology and GIZ.

The Commerce Ministry also invited various cities and state agencies, including the EcoLogistics project cities of Kochi, Panaji, and Shimla, to showcase their work related to improving urban logistics and to fast-track the action for Freight-Smart Cities Initiative. ICLEI South Asia is providing technical support to Kochi, Panaji, and Shimla to promote sustainable urban freight as part of the EcoLogistics project, which is being supported by the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Germany, through its International Climate Initiative programme. The project promotes the transportation of goods by giving priority to health, safety, people-centered urban development, and low emissions, and encourages circular and regional economies. It follows the strategy to ‘avoid’ (and reduce) freight volume and haul distance; ‘shift’ to (and maintain) more sustainable modes of freight transportation; and improve logistics operations by using better technologies and operations. A first-of-its-kind global initiative, the project is being implemented in Argentina, Colombia and India.

The representatives from Kochi, Shimla and Panaji separately updated the audience on the various measures they have undertaken under the EcoLogistics project, such as:

  • Formation of multi-stakeholder working groups to facilitate coordination and discussions between various stakeholders associated with urban freight. The group includes a representative from various government agencies, the private sector, transport companies, business groups and the informal sector.
    • Formulation and approval of city-level urban freight baseline reports by the city councils in Panaji and Kochi (baseline report for Shimla is being prepared). The baseline was helpful in the identification of strategic options that could lead to a low-carbon future for urban freight. It also documents and maps freight movement in the city and nearby influence areas; identifies the major issues in freight movement; and determines the GHG emissions from the sector using the ICLEI EcoLogistics self-monitoring tool, developed for cities to estimate their emissions from urban freight transport.
  • Advanced-stage development of a low carbon action plan for urban freight (LCAP-UF) in Kochi and Panaji to address the issues, challenges, and barriers in the urban freight baseline report. The LCAP-UF identified comprehensive strategies and activities to be undertaken over the short, medium, and long term to improve the efficiency and infrastructure related to urban freight.

The government appreciated the initiatives undertaken by the EcoLogistics cities and recommended them as the logical next steps for other cities. It was suggested that under the Freight-Smart Cities Initiative, city-level logistics committees be formed. These committees would have related government departments and agencies at the local and state levels, and would also include the providers and users of logistics services in the private sector. These committees would co-create City Logistics Plans to implement performance improvement measures locally. From the 10 cities to be identified on an immediate basis, it is planned to expand the list to 75 cities in the next phase, before scaling up throughout the country, including all state capitals and cities with more than one million population. The list of cities would, however, be finalised in consultation with the state governments.

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