Rohtang Pass is likely to become the world’s highest mountain destination to run CNG buses at a height of 13,050 feet with the Himachal Pradesh government successfully completing two trial runs in this regard.
Official agencies in Himachal Pradesh, mainly the Transport Department and Department of Environment, Science and Technology (DoEST), have been told to collect data and verify the viability of this project before the state government takes a call to operate CNG transport services between Manali and Rohtang Pass.
After the successful trial run of the CNG medium-sized buses to Rohtang Pass following the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order, Transport Minister G S Bali said the cabinet will soon take a decision on starting CNG-based buses in Manali .
“We are working on options to offer CNG bus operation to the private sector or co-operative societies of taxi operators, who have been hit by the NGT ban on tourism-related commercial activities at Rohtang Pass, Solang Nullah and Marhi. This will not only be a green initiative to reduce vehicular emission at Rohtang Pass, but also a part of the rehabilitation package being worked out to comply with the NGT orders,” Bali said .
Transport minister said he had held a meeting with Additional Chief Secretary (Environment) Tarun Shridhar and Additional Chief Secretary (Transport) on the issue. The state government will seek NGT’s help to seek funding from the Central government to run CNG buses and also setting up of a gas station at Manali or elsewhere. The Gas Authority of India (GAIL) will also be approached to open its gas stations in the state, including Manali and Rohtang .
“The government will require Rs 250 crores to start the service. Funding will be sought from the Centre as the state government was already facing a financial crisis. We will ask the Centre to immediately provide atleast Rs 100 crore,” said Bali.
The state government has spent Rs 25 lakhs to conduct two trial runs of the CNG buses. Bali said that TATA has also been asked to undertake its own research and technical studies for Rohtang CNG service. In fact, the service will mainly be required for a few months as Rohtang Pass remains closed for almost half a year. The issue of economic liability of the buses and their fares will also be worked out once the NGT gives it nod .
Bali said he will hold a meeting with Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on August 6th and 7th to discuss the CNG issue as other areas of the state including Shimla, Dharamshala etc could also be covered in the CNG bus plan.
The plan to set up an Indian oil depot in Una district is also at an advanced stage and the proposal to run electric buses will also be worked out within the next few weeks.