June 02, 2002

CNG Bus Conversion Still in a Jam

A more recent study by the Center for Science and Environment updated the estimate to one person dying every 53 minutes due to air pollution.

In a commendable attempt to reduce this air pollution, the Indian Supreme Court ruled on July 28, 1998 that all eight-year-old buses and pre-1990 three wheelers and taxis would have to be converted to compressed natural gas (CNG) by March 31, 2000. The rest of the buses, three wheelers, and taxis had a deadline of March 31, 2001.

These deadlines have passed, and though the Supreme Court has not changed its position on the CNG conversion, they are confronting resistance from the diesel lobby, the government, and, ultimately, the people. The Supreme Court extended the deadline for the phase-out of diesel buses to CNG fueled buses to January 31, 2002, though little progress has been made, thus far, to this end.

The government claims that it cannot implement the order in this timeframe and has asked for an extension, until August 2004.

The projected number of CNG converted buses for March 2002 is 5,800, a little over half of the full order of 10,000 buses that the Supreme Court ordered. Furthermore, the government has increased the price of CNG and decreased the price of diesel fuel despite the fact that particulates mostly from diesel fumes claim more than 5,000,000 additional lives globally every year.

This shortsighted pricing scheme is not a surprise given that the Union government has failed to allocate enough Compressed Natural Gas to meet demand, and the Delhi government has done little to expedite clearance of needed, new pipelines to increase supply. If the government can keep supply tight, people will be forced to use diesel fuel instead of CNG, defeating the Supreme Court and maintaining support from the diesel lobby.

The Center for Science and Environment, one of India’s leading environmental NGO’s, has worked extensively on this issue and continues to push the government to comply with the Supreme Court ruling. The Delhi government needs to make a decision: they can support public health and the environment by complying with the Supreme Court ruling or they can continue to support the diesel industry and the premature death of many of its citizens.

Sadly, Anil Agarwal, one of the key environmentalists behind the lawsuit, and the founder of the Center for Science and the Environment, died earlier this year. He will be missed.

For further information: https://www.cseindia.org

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