After the National Green Tribunal extended the ban on diesel run tourist vehicles on the Leh-Manali road, the state transport department is deliberating on alternative modes of pollution-free transport in view of difficulties in ensuring CNG gas supply in Kullu.
The government had earlier contemplated the option of operating CNG buses from Manali to the Rohtang Pass to comply with the tribunal's order, but availability of CNG remains a big stumbling block.
The transport department is also considering the viability of running electric powered vehicles on the Manali-Rohtang stretch of the road and is in communication with companies interested to supply electric buses. "Buses that are too small or too large are of no use so we are looking for an alternative," transport minister GS Bali said.
"Sustained supplies of CNG are a big issue and, if resolved, there would be no problem in plying CNG buses. Keeping the refuelling issue in mind, the department is also working on the feasibility of plying electric powered vehicles. We have requested major vehicle manufacturers to produce a few medium sized buses keeping the state's topography in mind. The government has to also protect the interests of area residents as their livelihood will be affected by the National Green Tribunal's decision," Bali said.
He added an official meeting would be held with private manufacturers of electric buses next month. "Due to the increase in diesel prices, the state-run Himachal Road Transport Corp will have bear additional fuel costs of around `15 crore a month," he said.
The central environment ministry and GAIL had earlier told the National Green Tribunal they would in a position to provide environmental clearances for conversion of land and setting up a CNG station in Nangal. The tribunal had also directed the state government to take up the issue of a devising a methodology for providing BS-IV fuel in Himachal with the petroleum ministry.