The Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority (KMTA), the city’s umbrella body for mobility, has approved the formation of an urban freight committee, the first of its kind in India, to integrate, plan and regulate urban freight as part of urban mobility and development. The committee will address the issue of stakeholder fragmentation in urban freight and shall assist the city not only to achieve economic growth but also to support goals such as environmental sustainability.
It is well known that cities cannot survive without an effective urban freight system, as their economies depend on efficient goods distribution. Moving goods within cities is a complex task with high externalities. Moreover, the livability of cities is directly affected by the externalities of freight vehicles, such as high levels of air pollution, GHG emissions, and the economic burden of congestion. In spite of its relevance and externalities, the sector is often overlooked due to its fragmented governance structure, which results in transport-related policies being planned merely from the passenger transport perspective, without considering the needs of goods movement. Moreover, there is a significant disconnect observed between industry and the government bodies that handle the city transport network operations. The entire urban freight is predominantly dominated by informal private operations.
Therefore, Kochi’s new urban freight committee shall promote coordinated action to tackle these issues and close the gaps in urban freight movement. The KMTA is responsible for the planning, supervision, coordination, development, and regulation of urban transport and ancillary services within the urban mobility areas of Kochi. It is chaired by the state transport minister, with the state transport secretary as its vice-chairman, and brings under one umbrella agencies like the Motor Vehicles Department and the Kochi Corporation, besides town and urban transport planners. It can have a maximum of 15 members, including the district collector, city police commissioner, secretaries of local bodies, mayor, local MLA, and representatives from the state bus corporation. Apart from regular KMTA members, the Urban Freight committee shall include representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Cochin Goods Transporters Association, Ernakulam Market Stall Owners Association, and three-wheeler goods vehicle unions.
ICLEI South Asia has been advocating the setting up of the committee as part of the EcoLogistics project, which is being implemented in Kochi in partnership with the Kochi Municipal Corporation. Under the project, ICLEI South Asia is providing technical assistance and working closely with the transport department, Government of Kerala, Kochi Metro Rail Limited, KMTA, and other agencies on enhancing capacities, strategies, and policies to promote low-carbon urban freight through local action.
The EcoLogistics project is supported by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMU), Germany, through its International Climate Initiative (IKI) 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 the 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.