Can Chennai Beat the Climate? Two Solutions by Shreya Gadepalli

Action plans are a dime a dozen. What is missing are meaningful actions, sometimes difficult actions, that can bring about real change starting today, not two decades from now. This short blog post is an excerpt from Shreya Gadepalli’s speech at the C40 Cities Chennai meeting in late March 2024.

To mitigate transport emissions in Chennai today, we need a forest twice its size. But only 2% of Chennai is parks; 12% is parking!

Let’s talk about electric cars. If a fossil fuel car is a can of Coke, an electric car is diet Coke. The only thing changing is the sweetener. It still comes in an aluminum can. It still has artificial flavors and carbon dioxide. And a sweetener of questionable health impact.

Let’s look at car use. More car use requires more road surface, and more car use requires more parking space. More concrete and asphalt mean more heat gain, a less porous surface to recharge the water table, and less space for trees to provide shade.

Electrification is a convenient way of greenwashing the issue. It sounds great because we can all stay in our cars.  A car is a car is a car.

Two Solutions to Save Chennai (and most Indian Cities)

1) Make walking, cycling, and bussing attractive. A fine grid of treelined streets, slow streets and protected tracks for cycling, and buses that are less than 5 minutes away, arrive every 5 minutes, and reach the destination without a delay of more than 5 minutes (through bus priority measures).

2) Make personal motor vehicle use, especially car use (including cabs), costly and difficult. Think prices and caps to parking, road pricing, and zero-emission zones. This is in addition to no more money wasted on flyovers and huge parking structures.

Is Chennai ready to do this?

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