In the midst of 'procedural delays' the West Bengal transport department was yet to implement the conversion of autorickshaws in Kolkata to liquified petroleum gas fuel, wasting a Rs 2 crore (Rs 20 million) central government fund allotted for conversion of the vehicles.
The West Bengal Pollution Control Board and the department of environment were in talks with the transport department to convert 5,000 autorickshaws to LPG by this year.
The proposal had to be routed through the transport department. "We were having discussions with the department and were hopeful of a mandate being passed for converting these vehicles to alternate fuel sources," said M L Meena, principal secreatary, department of environment, west Bengal.
Around Rs 4 crore (Rs 40 million) was expected for the same cause from the central government in the coming financial year, sources claimed. The target was to convert another 10,000 autorickshaws to LPG next year, said Meena.
A 50 per cent subsidy scheme would be worked out for autorickshaw owners at a cost of around Rs 5,000 per autorickshaw.
Conversion to more eco-friendly fuel was expected to reduce the air pollution levels in the city.
World Health Organisation recommended safe levels for suspended particulate matter in the air was 60 milligram (mg) per cubic metre. SPM levels in the city was around 500 mg per cubic metre in winters.
Citing these statistics, Simon Wilson, British Deputy High Commissioner to Eastern India, said it was high time Kolkata switched to cleaner fuels for public transport like other Indian cities.
Talking at the Environment Partnership Summit organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce, Wilson urged speeding up of the process of conversion of vehicles to cleaner fuels.
Vehicular emission accounted for nearly 65 per cent of total air pollution. An integrated approach had to be developed to tackle pollution levels, said B Sengupta, member secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board.