Two weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi distributed 11 battery-powered e-boats at the Assi Ghat here, the boatmen are facing trouble in getting their batteries recharged.
Each e-boat has a set of six batteries that weigh around 180kg. The boatmen have to lug them up the ghat stairs to reach the power points.
“The e-boats may reduce pollution in the Ganga but it is very tough to take the batteries for a recharge. Several times, the boats were stopped in the middle of the ride and we were left with no option but to use ores,” says Murat Sahni, one of the 11 beneficiaries at Assi Ghat. The boatmen have urged the government to get their boats fitted with solar panels.
Boatman Virendra Nishad said, “We were told that the boats will run on solar power but there is no facility available. If the government installs solar panels over the boats, sunlight will help recharge the batteries. Then we won’t have to carry heavy batteries for recharge.” Modi took a ride on Nishad’s boat during the launch.
Many boatmen doubt the feasibility of the concept of e-boats in the Ganga. Ramesh Sahni, a boatman at the Dashaswamedh Ghat, said, “These e-boats are fit for steady water like ponds... They can’t run in strong currents.”
However, experts lauded the Centre’s effort to reduce pollution in the river. “For every necessary change, there is a need to experiment. These e-boats can prove an important experiment in freeing Ganga from the pollution by diesel-engine boats,” said professor PN Gupta, department of Physics, Banaras Hindu University.
Sanjay Bhardwaj, East UP BJP media in-charge, said, “Some boatmen have complained of battery charging problem. We will find a solution soon.”