news Friday, July 10, 2015 - 05:30
  If you thought that Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses were soon to be a reality in Bengaluru, giving you some respite from the maddening pollution, then you are wrong. Never mind that Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) has officially called for land to set up CNG stations at four locations in the city, the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), buses of which will be the first to start using CNG, seems ill-prepared for the shift from diesel to the more environment-friendly option. Top BMTC officials say that they do not have a single CNG bus now and the process to acquire them is stuck due to funding issues. The earlier idea of buying hybrid-buses, which can run on both diesel and electricity, also seems to have been abandoned. Officials in the BMTC state that new buses will be bought only after GAIL completes setting up its gas-stations. The BMTC has had a history of problems around the shift to CNG. In July 2013, Chief Minister Siddaramiah announced that GAIL would set up 25 CNG depots in the city and procure 300 CNG buses for the city. The government had then said that the first CNG buses would be on the roads within two to three months. Two years later, the process of acquiring buses has barely begun, and there were signs of delay on day one. "The inefficiency of Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) in delaying the authorisation of Bangalore city should not be allowed to become a handicap for the effective utilisation of public money. The delay in this authorisation is denying the accrual of the benefit of already invested public money to the people of Karnataka,” Siddaramaiah had said in 2013. Veerappa Moily had assured that additional gas pipelines would be laid down for easy supply. In February 2014, BMTC incorporated electric buses which were run as a pilot project basis for three months. Facing problems in acquiring the E-buses, state transport minister Ramalinga Reddy, who had earlier inaugurated the E-buses said that priority would be given to CNG buses. “The distribution work of natural gas is in the final stage with the joint venture of KSIIDC and GAIL. It will be completed at the earliest and action will be taken on priority basis to supply CNG in Bangalore. Action will be taken to introduce and adopt eco-friendly CNG in urban transport vehicles in a phased manner," he had said. Reddy also said that BMTC has ordered 310 CNG buses from Volvo and was also planning to buy 500-600 buses every year. However till date the BMTC has been unable to procure even a single CNG bus. In October 2014, the BMTC seemed to be firm of its decision to go ahead with ordering CNG buses even if GAIL would take a year or two to complete building the infrastructure. BMTC’s Managing Director, Dr Ekroop Caur said that even if GAIL’s work was delayed BMTC will procure CNG buses and that the city would get its first CNG buses by April 2015. The tenders were also supposedly floated and the BMTC had planned to set up CNG filling stations around the city. Media reports also stated that BMTC will buy 270 CNG buses and that the cost for it would be shared by BMTC, state and central governments. Reddy had even said that CNG would be stored in the BMTC depots as there is sufficient space for it. He also expressed hopes to buy Hybrid buses once the prices come down. In early 2015, the plans came crashing down. BMTC said it was in no position to buy any CNG buses as they do not have enough funds and that it had asked GAIL to stop all groundwork. The tender for buying CNG buses was put on hold and the plan to buy more hybrid buses was also scrapped. The Chairman of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) Vaman Acharya had then said “I believe if the court comes out with an order on the matter they will show urgency in implementing the project." With rising pollution in Bengaluru, CNG could be life-altering for the citizens of Bengaluru, the same way it helped reduce pollution in Delhi.