Bengaluru’s carbon emissions: how much? what to do?

The second in a series of two articles from Citizen Matters, commissioned on the back of the failed Copenhagen summit. Read about your city’s carbon emissions and what is being done to cut them down.

Initiatives around Bengaluru spark some hope that progress can be made to cut down the city’s carbon footprint.

Bengaluru estimated to emit around 6.36 million metric tonnes of Carbon dioxide.

In 2008, the South Asia chapter of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) came out with Carbon emission profiles for 54 cities in the region. Bangalore was one of the cities studied. ICLEI estimated that Bengaluru was emitting around 6.36 million teCO2 (metric tonnes of Carbon dioxide and equivalents) during the study period of 2007-2008. (This was the only published study Citizen Matters has found on carbon emissions for Bangalore anytime recently).

Bangalore’s per capita emission rates (at a population of 4.14 million according to 2001 census) were around 0.82 tonnes not much different from the national average of 0.80 tonnes. A comparison with Chennai shows that while the Tamilnadu capital has a slightly higher per capita emission rate at 0.91 tonnes, its total emissions for the year are only half as much at 3.82 million teCO2. Kolkata (population 4.57 million) shows a much higher carbon count at 9.33 million teCO2 and per capita emissions at 1.83 tonnes. Even though population numbers are themselves are outdated, the study still allows a comparison between Bengaluru and other major cities in the country.

With the Eco Eye initiative, Wipro’s stated objectives are to become carbon neutral and water positive by the year 2015.

The study looked at emissions from residential and municipal corporation activities. The latter activities include street lighting, water supply and other public utility services as well as city level emissions from transportation, buildings etc. The data came from two sources: one is the administrative and engineering units of BBMP and the other is the various private agencies that supply energy to residential, industrial, transportation sectors. The data for Bangalore was collected by the City Manager’s Association, Karnataka (CMAK).

The results are somewhat surprising. First, Bengaluru municipal corporation emissions comprise only 4.14 per cent of the city’s emissions. Of this a majority of corporation emissions – a whopping 77 percent – comes from energy used to supply water and treat sewage. Street lighting emits 21 per cent of the corporation’s emissions and municipal buildings and transportation consists of 1 per cent.

Carbon emission graph

City carbon emission. Source: ICLEI report.

City level carbon emissions present a more diverse picture. While residential areas (energy consumed by households) emit the most carbon at 32 per cent of the total, industrial and commercial sectors (like malls and stores) constitute 26 per cent. Transportation again ranks surprisingly low at just 13 per cent while municipal solid waste constitutes 3 per cent of the total emissions.

Emissions for all these sectors are calculated by assessing how much fuel or energy these activities consumed. The data is not based on physical count for some sectors like transportation but on mathematical modeling and and average number of vehicles registered with the RTO for the past 20 years. The emission rates for cars or two-wheelers for example are assumed with an error rate of 5-10 per cent.

Industry emissions are not specific to the types of industries such as Infotech or manufacturing.

The inventory however is the first attempt by any reputed agency to actually produce data on cities. While no formal action plan was launched either by the state government or BBMP for Bangalore on the basis of this, data, a few private groups seem to have jumped in. Several organisations in Bangalore are working towards mitigating emissions particularly in key areas like building, transport and waste management.

Building efficiency

At a time when the city’s landscape seems to be littered with glass and chrome, The Energy Resource Institute (TERI), headquatered in New Delhi, with centres in Bangalore, Mumbai and Guwahati can evaluate how ‘green’ buildings are. Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment or simply GRIHA, is a rating tool offered to real estate developers that assesses the environmental performance of a building, through its entire life cycle, i.e. right from the construction, through operation and then demolition.

Gaurav Shorey, the area convenor based in at the headquarters in New Delhi for GRIHA, says “(Usage of) energy intensive glass and concrete structures that are part of our cities today, this is just in past 10-15 years. This was not the case historically”.

How does a developer gain from this accreditation? Going through this process, and following guidelines for sustainable buildings, could result in a net decrease in amount of money invested. “The problem with buildings today is their skin is not designed properly, which means an increase in electricity or diesel to regulate indoor temperatures”, says Shorey.

The Ministry of Renewable Energy adopted GRIHA, and has also come up with incentives to encourage developers to build green. Large projects of over 5000 sq mts, if awarded with 4 or 5 stars will be given a 90 per cent refund on the registration fee that is paid during the process. Furthermore, the ministry offers a 30 per cent subsidy on renewable energy materials like solar photovoltaic cells, which as Shorey points out is the most expensive component of a green building.

TERI’s Bangalore office at Domlur in central Bangalore is one of about 40 projects in the city that are being evaluated by GRIHA.

TERI bldg

TERI building. Pic courtesy:

Lots of garbage, lots of gas

Another major cause for emissions in Bangalore is the lack of efficient waste management. According to Wilma Rodrigues, Founder of Saahas, at 2000 tonnes/year, solid waste is the third largest contributor to carbon emissions Wilma’s own estimate. Saahas is an NGO that works with waste management issues in the city.

He says organic waste, that gets dumped in landfills, when decomposed is a particularly major source of methane. Saahas has been involved in several initiatives to effectively dispose of solid waste, while minimizing methane and CO2 emissions.

“Our entire programme focuses on managing waste at the source,” explains Wilma. The organisation helps apartment complexes and schools in segregation of their waste. “I would say approximately 10 per cent of the city’s households are primary sorters (i.e. they sort waste themselves) and another 20 per cent are secondary sorters,” Wilma ventures.

waste segregation

Garbage segregation. File photo: Arathi Manay Yajaman.

Shouldn’t BBMP play a greater role in city’s waste management? “We can’t just hold them responsible for this. While they can provide support or incentives, apartment blocks, gated communities and schools can start looking after their own waste,” Wilma argues.

BBMP’s Environment Engineer, Hemalatha K agrees that segregation at the source itself could solve reduce emissions in a big way. Now waste from the city’s eight zones are dumped in three landfills on the outskirts. While BBMP does not directly get involved in segregation at source, Hemalatha says that any organisations working on such initiatives are supported. “If segregation happens at source itself then we save that much fuel and transportation costs,” she points out.

“Most households don’t understand the need for segregation or the science behind it. So depending on individuals to directly take responsibility for the waster they generate is difficult,” concludes the Environment Engineer. Perhaps it is this reluctance of individuals to take responsibility for their own waste that is forcing BBMP to identify four new sites for landfills in the near future.

Transportation initiatives

Energy sucking buildings and increasing garbage simply cannot compete with the visually disturbing chaos of Bangalore’s traffic/commuter scene. There are several small initiatives that promote sustainable transport. One of them is the Ride a Cycle Foundation (RACF). Those who would prefer the comfort of a car could even chose car pooling initiatives such as ‘Commute Easy’.


Started by Vipul Kasera, an RJ with Radio One in 2006, ‘Commute Easy’ is an online forum that allows commuters to register and find car pools that ply on routes convenient to them. Commute Easy has now spread to eight cities in the country but Bangalore has the most users registered at 13,181.

Green commuting also needs the support of local governing agencies. Mohammad Mohsin, an IAS officer who is the Director of the Bangalore Metropolitan Land Transit Authority (BMLTA), says, “Under the National Urban Transport Policy, 2006 our priority at the moment is to develop mass transit systems like the Metro and BMTC buses, as these will cater to all sections of the society.”

BMTC has been active very recently with the launch of Bangalore’s Bus Day on the 4th of every month, starting February this year. Reports already indicate that bus ridership registered an increase amongst the more affluent citizens and this has dropped the pollution levels on two bus days held so far. Indirectly at least, this means a drop in emissions on those days from the transportation sector. (Click here for Citizen Matters coverage of the inaugural bus day).

Apart from public transport, BMLTA has since 2009 been discussing plans to make Bangalore more cycle friendly. “We want to start small, with cycling tracks in residential areas for safety and then expand to commercial areas,” he says. Bangalore’s roads Mohsin admits are not cycle or pedestrian friendly at the moment. “We need a Pedestrian Policy, even though 60 per cent of Bangalore already has pavements,” he adds.

BMLTA even has some plans for car pooling. While Mohsin makes it clear that it is not possible to be directly involved in car pooling initiatives, “it is possible to provide incentives to carpoolers. Car pooling groups could be registered and provided with priority parking or even a tax concession for instance.”

Taking inefficient old vehicles (over 15 years) off the street is an idea BMLTA has been toying with, but there are a few hurdles to these sort of measure. “Biggest hurdle to attempting something like this is, the RTO is still not fully computerized. Without this we can have no idea how many old vehicles are on the streets of Bangalore,” says Mohsin.

Another problem he adds is that “even though political leaders are aware of need to cut carbon emissions most are not active as they feel moves like these (taking old vehicles off the streets) will risk their votebanks.”

Big businesses and city emissions

A few like WIPRO have started taking stock of their carbon footprint. P S Narayan, the General Manager and Head of the Sustainability Practices says, “we started our GHG inventory program in early 2008 when we accounted for our GHG footprint for the first time for the year 2007-08.” In June 2008, the company started ‘a comprehensive charter for ecological sustainability’ called EcoEye. With EcoEye, WIPRO’s stated objectives are to become carbon neutral and water positive by the year 2015, mainly by looking into its energy consumption patterns.

wipro floating centre

Wipro office building. Pic source: Wikimedia Commons.

The company’s 50-acre campus at Electronic city, houses a bio-methanation plant that processes organic waste from its cafeteria to produce methane gas for cooking, thus saving on natural gas. The campus also has facilities to harvest rainwater particularly for cooling its AC towers, a waste paper recycling plant and a micro windmill to power lights along the campus at night. WIPRO’s own estimates suggest that they have managed to bring down water consumption by 52 per cent since they started. The Sarjapur campus is lit completely by LED lights that have replaced the traditional fluorescent lamps. The largest LED light installation in the country, the campus has apparently cut 75 per cent of its electricity consumption.

Apart from saving a significant chunk of change, WIPRO’s ‘green campuses’ perhaps also served as testing grounds. Now the company offers consultation services in water management (called WIPRO Water) and clean energy solutions called WIPRO Eco-energy for other businesses. Narayan adds, “we started our GHG inventory program in early 2008 when we accounted for our GHG footprint for the first time for the year 2007-08.”

Youth wake up

Even as these diverse groups and individuals engage with different aspects of climate change, there are similarities. A common call among youth in the city is to become more involved with these issues. Perhaps it is in response to this need that the Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) was set up. A network of individuals and organisations that work on climate change, IYCN is primarily involved in raising awareness.

Brinda Gowrav, a coordinator with IYCN says, “We are not so concerned with theorising as with action. So all our activities are about awareness or real solutions.”

File photo.

One such awareness programme was the participation in the global movement 350 (350 parts per million is the safe limit of CO2) on the 24th of October last year in the run up to Copenhagen. IYCN even sent in representatives to negotiate as part of the youth delegation at the COP15. Even though the climate summit was a disappointment to many, Arun Patre an IYCN member who was part of the youth delegation contends that the conference was a learning experience. “For the first time the youth had a voice in the negotiations. We were able to interact with key negotiators, voice our opinions on emission cuts, schemes like REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) participate in the plenary”.

Apart from advocacy, IYCN is also involved in projects such as providing energy for rural areas through bio gas plants and creating awareness among low income groups in the city by providing them CFLs or conducting educational programmes in government schools. Brinda adds, “The idea is to create short term sustainable and replicable blueprints for the future. We know what the problems are, now we want to be part of the solutions.”

Cartoons for Climate provides a humorous lens to look at one of the biggest threats humanity is facing today and is aimed at inspiring the audience to take action without sermonising. It forms part of British Council’s Low Carbon Futures Project (

An exhibition of the best entries from a cartoon contest, part of the project has been organised by British Council in partnership with the Indian Institute of Cartoonists, Bangalore.

Exhibition dates: 5-17 March 2010
Time: 10.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m.
Venue : Indian Institute of Cartoonists, #1, Midford House, Midford
Gardens, Off M G Road



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