Volvo Nobel Memorial Seminar

Thought leaders stress upon stakeholders coming together to achieve sustainable mobility in Indian cities by 2020

Experts urge stakeholders to adopt a collaborative approach to address current concerns. Underline the importance of civil society’s involvement to ensure success of initiatives to achieve long lasting results.

The 5th Edition of Volvo Nobel Memorial Seminar on Sustainable Mobility took place recently in Bangalore. The topic for this year’s seminar was “The Road to Sustainable Mobility – The Choices We Need to Make Today”. As has become a tradition, the panel discussions at the Volvo Nobel Memorial Seminar witnessed participation from among thought leaders & authorities on the subject of sustainable mobility.

The event also saw greater participation by people representing various stakeholders at the event. The Volvo Nobel Memorial Seminar is organised by Volvo Buses in India as part of the Sweden-India Nobel Memorial Week and under the patronage of the Embassy of Sweden.

The 5th Edition of the seminar consisted of two panel discussions. Members for the first panel discussion were H.E. Mr. Harald Sandberg, Ambassador of Sweden to India; Mr. P Ravi Kumar, Principal Secretary – Transport, Government of Karnataka; Mr. Prasanna Patwardhan, Chairman & Managing Director, Prasanna Purple Mobility Solutions; Mr Ranjit Gadgil, Program Director at Parisar, Pune; and Mr. Murali Gopalan, National Business Editor, The Hindu Business Line. The topic of this panel was “The Road to Sustainable Transport - Regulations versus ‘Bringing it all together’.”

Mr. P Ravi Kumar pointed out that the government recognised the problems of mobility in the country and was taking steps towards improving the situation. One such step was towards ‘breaking’ the silos existing within government bodies to create a decentralised, transparent structure that would be an enabler to meet the transportation needs of the country. He, however, added that, “

Added Ranjit Gadgil, Parisar, “The civil society plays an important role within the system and pushes ideas. If you can have access to local government officials, then you can make a larger change. Decentralization will play an important role in bringing that power to the local government bodies.”

The other interesting aspect that was discussed was on collaboration. As Mr. Prasanna Patwardhan, Chairman and Managing Director, Prasanna Purple Mobility Solutions pointed out, “The situation is critical today. The need of the hour is in establishing public- private partnerships to protect and promote the best interests of the public.”

Commenting on the comparison between India and Europe, His Excellency Harald Sandberg, Ambassador of Sweden to India said, “Europe has its own areas of challenges, however, two things we can learn to implement in India are in improving overall awareness of various stakeholders and regulators to create sustainable transport and the second was effective public policies to be introduced that will pave the way for larger change in the country.”

Murali Gopalan, National Business Editor, The Hindu Business Line spoke about the importance of a consensus between people’s aspirations and the need to build sustainable transport in the country. He mentioned that all modes of transportation need to co-exist and that the country was slowly making a transition towards the same.

In conclusion, while the panellists did agree that India was making progress, albeit a slow and steady one, there was a greater need for transparent decision making, a robust consultative process between all the stakeholders and a need to incentivise the public transport system.

Moving on from the first discussion, the second panel discussion was on enhancing capabilities to build a feasible transport system. Mr. Anjum Pervez, Managing Director, Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation acknowledged that while there are gaps in infrastructure planning, the government had taken several steps to provide transport facilities to the public in the smallest of towns and villages. He was of the opinion that capability building was a huge task posed to the stakeholders in the ecosystem.

Adding to how Volvo was helping build capability, Akash Passey Sr. Vice-President, Business Region International, Volvo Bus Corporation spoke about how Volvo is engaging deeply with its customers to play a more involved role in improving their ecosystem.

Madhav Pai, Director, EMBARQ India also emphasized upon the need to strengthen the planning process in the country to create urban transport systems that cater to the majority needs of the people and not the minority needs of the car users. He also added that there was an immense need to make the urban transport system more attractive to drive uptake of the usage of the public transport systems.

Manjula V, Commissioner, Directorate of Urban Land Transport said, “ It is imperative to have a dialogue at a planning level and make the master plan more robust to make sustainable mobility a reality. The focus so far has been on traffic management; however, it now needs to shift to capability management.”

Added Professor HM Shivanand Swamy, Professor& Associate Director, CEPT University, “Apart from the focus on infrastructure, it is also important to enable people to make the switch to use public transportation. All stakeholders including the media and academia play a role in helping people make that switch.”

All the panellists agreed that the capability gap had reduced over the past few years and that with a renewed focus on planning a lot of progress could be achieved.

The sessions were moderated by V. Ravichander, Chairman, Feedback Consulting.

The Volvo Nobel Memorial Seminar is a part of the Noble Memorial Week celebrations that The Embassy of Sweden celebrates, every year in India, coinciding with the announcement of the year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The aim of this seminar is to bring together the opinions and experiences from stakeholders across the city of Bangalore - to discuss common civic issues and move towards a shared vision for our collective progress.