TAMIL NADU

All Chennai autorickshaws to switch over to LPG within a year

Vani Doraisamy

2,500-strong MTC fleet to follow suit the year after

Rs. 2,000 as subsidy for each LPG kitVehicle owners should seek loan for rest of cost

CHENNAI: Residents of the metropolis may get to breathe cleaner air in the next two years, with the State Government deciding to phase out liquid fuel in buses and autorickshaws and switch over to eco-friendly gaseous fuel.

"We have decided to follow the example set by New Delhi and clean up Chennai's air. Within the next year, all 50,000 autos in the city will be asked to switch over to liquefied petroleum gas, followed by all 2,500 Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses the next year," Transport Minister K.N. Nehru has told The Hindu . Suitable amendments will be made to the Motor Vehicles Act to facilitate this. Unlike New Delhi, constraints in supply infrastructure may prevent Chennai from switching over to compressed natural gas (CNG) initially. Instead, the Government will build upon the existing network of auto LPG dispensing stations (ALDS), while continuing to explore the option of switching over to CNG.

The decision follows recommendations made by the Environment department.

"We are talking with Indian Oil Corporation to set up more ALDS, in addition to the existing 23 supply points, including those by other oil companies, to meet the fuel needs of 50,000 autos currently plying on city roads. While the oil company has given us a commitment to do so in the next four months, it has asked for some more time to set up more ALDS to cater for the MTC fleet," Mr. Nehru said. The four-month period should be enough for autorickshaws to start retrofitting their vehicles with LPG conversion kits, the Minister said. The Government would give Rs. 2,000 as subsidy for each kit and encourage vehicle owners to seek loans to cover the rest of the cost.

Even with its 17 lakh and growing vehicle population, Chennai has recorded respirable suspended particulate matter, suspended particulate matter, oxides of sulphur and nitrogen levels only slightly higher than the National Ambient Air Quality standards, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board officials said. This would make the clean-up job so much easier.