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3 examples of German-Indian environmental cooperation

Hannah Fuchs
February 13, 2019

The German-Indian environment forum opens in New Delhi on Wednesday to tackle environmental issues together. DW looks at several areas where the two countries have already begun working together.

Indian city of Bangalore
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Stache

India is changing quickly. Its economy is growing, its industry continues to develop and its need for electricity is increasing, with more and more people wanting to move to cities.

This development poses challenges not only to the country's infrastructure, but also to its environmental protection. India's environmental to-do list includes battling air pollution, securing clean water supplies, protecting its soil and fighting noise pollution.

And the country is taking these issues seriously by – among other measures – teaming up with international partners like Germany, as well as international organizations in order to find ways to reach its environmental goals.

Read more: Water wars: Are India and Pakistan heading for climate change-induced conflict?

A person in India with entire face covered
India has some of the cities with the worst air quality in the worldImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/T. Topgyal

Joint climate protection

India and Germany have been working together for a long time. Economically speaking, Germany is India's number one trading partner within the EU and its sixth most important trading partner worldwide.

Now, Germany and India are betting on political dialogue when it comes to tackling climate challenges. As part of the new German-Indian environment forum, the two countries have brought to life a range of working groups that are holding meetings about climate protection, sustainable city planning, as well as water and waste management.

The forum aims to find climate friendly, efficient and sustainable solutions for India's growing energy needs. In 2015, both countries issued a joint climate protection agreement

Here's a look at several areas of cooperation already in the works.

Read more: How foul air in India is putting people's lives in danger

Gandhinagar will become a smart city
The city of Gandhinagar will be built from scratch as part of the 100 smart cities projectImage: Reuters/Amit Dave

1. Smart cities

In April 2015, the Indian government launched the "100 Smart Cities" program, which will either build 100 brand-new intelligent cities or make already existing cities more efficient. Germany is supporting three Indian cities on their way to becoming smart: Kochi, Coimbatore and Bhubaneswar.

Measures to becoming a smart city include expanding the city's water supply, sanitary installations, waste industry, affordable housing and public transport.  Germany's international cooperation for sustainable development, GIZ, advises India's new smart cities when it comes to planning and creating non-motorized public mobility among other things.  

Solar panels line the top of a train in India
New Delhi's metro system will be more reliable - and more climate friendly - thanks to solar energyImage: Getty Images/AFP/C. Khanna

2. Solar energy

India wants to increase the amount of renewables in its electricity supply to 25 percent. That's five times as much as it currently has.  The majority of these renewables will come from solar plants.

Germany is providing support to India's government with the construction of solar roofs, solar parks and island systems.

And with the help of GIZ, underground stations in India have already been equipped with solar plants. New Delhi's metro, for instance, is now producing a huge amount of its electricity with these solar plants.

The metro is a more climate friendly alternative to traveling by car or motorbike, but it still uses a lot of electricity – roughly as much as 100,000 Indian households every month. What's more, India's transport systems are often overburdened, which results in power blackouts. By switching to solar energy, India's metro system is supposed to become more reliable.

Read more: Can India take the lead on Asia's renewable energy future?

People line up for water in India
The water supply in many of India's cities is a huge problemImage: Reuters/A. Mukherjee

3. Intelligent water management

Many of India's cities only provide drinking water for a couple of hours per day and some neighborhoods aren't connected to the water supply at all. Often, sewer systems and sewage plants are lacking altogether, which means waste water reaches rivers and lakes, which people drink from, unfiltered. 

In order to tackle these issues, the project "Smart Water Future India", which is being funded by the German Federal Environment Ministry, is supporting India in developing intelligent waste water management for its large cities. 

The Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology is involved in coordinating the project. It plans to develop an example of how sustainable water management can work in an intelligently connected city. The example will be based on Coimbatore, a city of more than a million people in India's south, with the goal of collecting and cleaning all of its waste water until 2045. Seventy percent of the water is then supposed to be recycled. Rain water will also be used in the future.