Maharashtra to spend bulk of clean air funds on electrifying public transport | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Maharashtra to spend bulk of clean air funds on electrifying public transport

ByPrayag Arora-Desai
Dec 19, 2021 11:54 PM IST

The Maharashtra government plans to spend a significant majority of clean air funding obtained under the 15th Finance Commission (FC) on electrifying public transport under its Electric Vehicle (EV) Policy 2021

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government plans to spend a significant majority of clean air funding obtained under the 15th Finance Commission (FC) on electrifying public transport under its Electric Vehicle (EV) Policy 2021.

Maharashtra to spend bulk of clean air funds on electrifying public transport (HT File)
Maharashtra to spend bulk of clean air funds on electrifying public transport (HT File)

The policy aims at bringing at least 1,46,000 new battery-operated electric vehicles (BEVs) on state roads by 2025, estimated to comprise about 10% of all new vehicle registrations by that time.

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Maharashtra has been allotted a total corpus of 2981 crore, at the recommendation of the 15th FC, specifically to address air pollution in the state. The funds are to be utilised by the end of the financial year 2026. Of the 2773 crore which the state government plans to spend by the end of FY2025, a clean 80% (or 2218 crore) is proposed to be spent on the EV Policy, primarily on electrifying bus fleets in major urban clusters.

“These buses will not be purchased, but the transport department will use the funds to subsidise contractors’ costs for one year,” said an MPCB official in the know of the matter.

The balance 555 crore are to be spent on local interventions, such as increasing Maharashtra’s air quality monitoring network (3%), implementing dust control measures (8%), and regulating construction (4%), industries (2% ), bakeries and crematoria (3%).

Confirming these details, Dr VM Motghare, joint director (air quality), Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), said, “Since vehicular emissions are a leading cause of air pollution, we have decided to utilise the 15th FC funds to boost electrification of public vehicles in six urban agglomerations, including Greater Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur, Aurangabad and Vasai-Virar. These funds are not the same as those obtained under the National Clean Air Program. That is a different corpus, and applies to different cities.”

The move has drawn mixed reactions from experts. While some said the move is strategically sound, others feared that allotting a disproportionate amount of clean air funds to a macro-level policy will take away local resources to fight air pollution.

Aarti Khosla, director of advocacy group Climate Trends, said, “ 2700 odd crore is not a huge amount to begin with, so perhaps the state has decided to put its heft behind a single goal. That makes sense, because public transport needs to be cleaned up. Alternate sources of funding for the EV Policy can be tapped into later. But the policy’s target, of converting 10% of new vehicle registrations in four years, could be more ambitious.”

Others said that the move is an innovative one, and should be taken note of by other cities. Tanushree Ganguly, from the Delhi-based think tank Council on Energy, Environment and Water, said, “ULBs tend to underestimate the contribution of road dust resuspension to air pollution, so it would be cautious to pay a little more attention to that. But at the same time no other state has tried this model, of using FC funds single-mindedly to clean up the public transport system. That is noteworthy.

Not all agreed, though. “It is a no-brainer that the transport sector is one of the greatest contributors to air pollution. It’s a positive step that Maharashtra is planning to address the issue. But diverting about 80% of the FC funds towards EVs could be thought through. Cities also face other sources of air pollution, from poor waste management practices to rampant construction and industrial emissions. These areas are equally deserving of targeted policies and interventions. I would urge Maharashtra to balance out the funds among other sectors,” said Dr Anjal Prakash, research director at the Indian School of Business (ISB) and a lead author of the ongoing 6th Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (where he is involved in the chapter on cities, settlements and key infrastructure).

A senior official in the transport department, seeking anonymity, said that the state government is also considering other modes of funding the EV Policy, such as levying green taxes on polluting vehicles, to subsidise private EV purchases under the new policy. “But the details of this are yet to be worked out. The governing committee will deliberate and seek inputs from other departments, including environment, revenue and transport,” the official said.

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