Induction of e-bus in DTC: Remedy or political stunt

Delhi targets 1500 e-buses to tackle air pollution

Environment

January 25, 2022

/ By / New Delhi

Induction of e-bus in DTC: Remedy or political stunt

First e-bus inducted in DTC fleet at Indraprastha Bus Depot (Photo: Twitter)

Delhi is notorious for its air pollution. Yearly around the months of October, November and December, the problem worsens with air quality looming around ‘very poor’ quality. To battle with the problem, the Delhi government has started to induct e-buses in its transport fleet. Last week, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal flagged the first e-bus in Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) fleet.

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The DTC and Delhi Integrated Multi-modal Transit System (DIMTS) jointly own about 6,900 buses in the city responsible for providing inland transport to the commuters. These and other forms of transport are often blamed for the seemingly uncontrollable air pollution that has been dogging not only the capital but large chunks of north and central India for years.

In what he called the first step towards combatting air pollution caused by vehicular traffic, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal flagged off the first e-bus inducted into the DTC fleet on January 17, 2022, from Indraprastha Bus Depot.

Induction of e-bus seems the right step considering the environmental degradation Delhi has undergone over the years. However, integrating just one bus in a fossil fuel-run jungle will be as ineffective as cutting a tree with a penknife.

The government, however, is pushing to get over 1500 e-buses under the ‘Centre’s Grand Challenge’ scheme. Under the scheme, Convergence Energy Services Limited (CESL), a state-run joint venture of Public Sector Units (PSUs), will provide 3,472 e-buses to nine metropolitan cities viz Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Surat and Pune.

Delhi has made an ambitious pitch for acquiring 1,500 buses under the scheme and the government hopes to get at least 1,000 buses. While the move of inducting e-buses in the Delhi fleet sounds has been welcomed by some environmentalists, the question still remains whether it would be enough to solve the perpetual problem of air pollution?

Delhi has been the centre of attention for its air pollution for nearly two decades, earning the dubious title of the world’s most polluted capital city. It was only during the strict and strenuous lockdown in 2020 that Delhi’s air quality meter had touched green. The problem of air pollution is so rampant in the city that the Supreme Court had to establish Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) in 2021.

The commission took some drastic measures to bring the menace under control. Schools were shut, along with construction and industrial processes for a significant amount of time. The Delhi government quite easily uses stubble burning in the neighbouring states as a shield to protect itself from the prying eyes of the Supreme Court as well as the public. However, the main factors for the capital’s air pollution remain urban construction activities, industrial emissions and vehicular pollution.

Arvind Kejriwal flagged the e-bus on January 17, 2022 (Photo: Twitter)

Delhi government acknowledging one of the prime urban factors behind air pollution is focused to make amendments and helping to rectify the problem has taking steps to rectify one of its urban factors, vehicular pollutions.

As per Statista, a German company specialising in market and consumer data, there were about 33,300 buses running in Delhi for 2022, among which the DTC owns approximately 6,900 buses while the rest are privately owned by organisations. With so many buses, the impact of induction of e-buses, even if Delhi got its desired 1500, would be meagre.

“Certainly, one bus cannot make the difference. It has to be about a fleet, and Delhi in any case has a target to expand its bus fleet to meet its basic public transport requirement. Therefore, augmentation of buses to the desired number and then targeted electrification, that is what is needed right now. Delhi can certainly set a very high level of ambition given the fact that Delhi has notified its electric vehicle policy its targeting for 25 pc electrification by 2024,” Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director, Centre for Science and Environment tells Media India Group.

Roychowdhury believes that Delhi needs to set a plan before proceeding further with its goal of electrification. “A much larger electric vehicle fleet is required in all segments, including buses. This procedure is just coming, but clearly what we have to plan for, target for and require is a much-upscaled plan for targeted electrification of the fleet. So, Delhi is in the process of purchasing new electric buses. Hence, the bus procurement needs to be designed for rapid electrification,” she says.

The Delhi government also needs to focus not only on the buses under DTC but also Delhi Integrated Multi-modal Transit System (DIMTS). Both the fleets need to be updated and electrified in order to make an impact. “Delhi has a hybrid system; it has DTC and it has DIMTS. So together whatever bus procurement policy Delhi has to adopt today it has to be linked to electrification. In fact, its new fleet can be fully electrified or majorly electrified and that targe can be easily set. In any case, Delhi’s EV policy is talking about 25pc total electrification by 2024,” observes Roychowdhury.

It’s not just about buses says Roychowdhury. “Delhi has notified its electrification policy. But it is not just about buses, while buses need to be done, Delhi will also have to take action to electrify all the vehicular segments to meet its set target. So, the entire upcoming fleet needs to be electrified. For that, milestones are required to be set by the authorities,” she adds.

“The number for electrification depends and it is not the final number. We are in 2022 already and they have set a daunting target of achieving 25 pc electrification by 2024 or within two years. They certainly need to make efforts to meet the target and then keep ramping it up. Delhi government has also started doing the needful, they have recently come up with a policy also for the targeted electrification for the delivery fleet and fleet aggregators. They are setting up a charging station network and incentives are also being designed to promote it. All the pieces that we have in the policy, they have started the implementation but now the whole question is how soon can they implement all of it,” asks Roychowdhury.

Indeed, many policies that have seemed glorious or great on paper have fallen through due to poor implementation. The governments, both central and state, need to be focused and to work in close coordination to achieve this target and go beyond it. But achieving close coordination is often a tall order for governments that are more about politics than policy.

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