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India plans to develop ‘freight smart cities’ with a German touch

Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas

The Commerce and Industry Ministry is working closely with GIZ (Germany) under Indo-German Development Cooperation, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and RMI India to introduce freight smart cities in India.

Ten cities will be identified immediately for the purpose and the list will be expanded to 75 cities in the next phase before scaling up throughout the country including all state capitals and cities that have a population of more than one million. The list of cities to be taken up would, however, be finalised in consultation with State governments.

The issue was discussed on Friday at a consultative meeting chaired by Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Hardeep Singh Puri on freight smart cities. Specific examples of cities that have progressed in this area were shared.

The minister launched the website on ‘Freight Smart Cities’ and also released a handbook outlining 14 measures that can be taken to improve urban freight. The minister appreciated the extensive participation of nearly 300 stakeholders.

With growing urbanisation, requirements of rapid economic growth including e-commerce and associated first and last mile freight movements; increasing congestion, noise and sound pollution in Indian cities is a menace affecting both public health and local economies.

The Logistics Division under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has decided to work in a planned manner to improve the city freight movement.

This is all the more relevant as the demand for urban freight is expected to grow by 140 per cent over the next 10 years, the commerce ministry said.

Final-mile freight movement in Indian cities is currently responsible for 50 per cent of total logistics costs in India’s growing e-commerce supply chains. Improving city logistics would also enable efficient freight movement and bring down the logistics costs boosting all sectors of the economy.

He also asked the States/City Governments to focus on the quick-wins like developing peri-urban freight centres, night-time deliveries, developing truck routes, using Intelligent Transportation Systems and modern technologies, promoting electrification of urban freight, parcel delivery terminals etc.

Representatives from NitiAayog, the Road Transport Ministry, the Railways ,  State governments, ADB and various technical  institutes presented their work related to improving city freight logistics. These cases and other good practices would help to accelerate the action.

“The 14 measures presented in the handbook represent high-leverage areas for cities to improve their economic competitiveness and reduce congestion and pollution. Several of these measures are low-cost, low effort initiatives that can be quickly taken up by working with the related public and private stakeholders.” said Pawan Agarwal, Special Secretary, Logistics Division in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.