Commute-related pollution: Kolkata shines among megacities


  • An analysis of 14 Indian cities, including six megacities and eight metropolises, on how they fare when it comes to pollution and energy consumption from urban commuting, places Kolkata as the top-performing megacity.
  • Bhopal leads the list on the lowest overall emissions. Delhi fares the worst on the two counts.

About the report:

  • The report titled ‘The Urban Commute and How it Contributes to Pollution and Energy’, compiled by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), was released in Kolkata on Friday.
  • CSE executive director Anumita Roychowdhury said air pollution was a national crisis and road transport was the sector showing the highest increase in emission of greenhouse gases.
  • Motorisation in India is explosive. Initially, it took 60 years (1951-2008) for India to cross the mark of 105 million registered vehicles. Thereafter, the same number of vehicles was added in a mere six years (2009-15).
  • In the study, with an aggregate of toxic emissions from urban commuting practices, such as particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, the cities were ranked based on calculations of heat trapping (CO2).
  • The study took two approaches to rank the cities — one based on overall emission and energy consumption and the other on per person trip emissions and energy consumption.


  • Six megacities (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad) and eight metropolitan cities (Bhopal, Lucknow, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Pune, Kochi and Vijayawada) were evaluated.
  • In terms of overall emissions and energy consumption, Bhopal was followed by Vijayawada, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Kochi and Jaipur. Kolkata, placed 7th overall, was better than the other five megacities as well as metropolitan cities like Pune and Ahmedabad.
  • Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai fared a little better than Delhi.
  • According to the report, though metropolitan cities scored better than megacities due to lower population, lower travel volume and lower vehicle numbers, they were at risk due to a much higher share of personal vehicle trips.

‘Resounding message’

  • Kolkata provides a resounding message that despite population growth and rising travel demand, it is possible to contain motorisation with a well established public transport culture, compact city design, high street density and restricted availability of land for roads and parking, the report pointed out, comparing Kolkata to Hong Kong and cities in Japan.
  • Mumbai, the report stated, had the highest GDP but a lower rate of motorisation compared with other megacities, proving that income levels were not the only reason for deciding a population’s dependence on automobiles.
  • Both Kolkata and Mumbai have grown with a unique advantage of a public transport spine well integrated with existing land use patterns.
  • Chennai was the first city to adopt a non-motorised transport (NMT) policy in 2004 that aims to arrest the decline of walking or cycling by creating a network of footpaths, bicycle tracks and greenways,the report said.


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