Jayanta Basu, TT, April 10: The National Green Tribunal today rapped the state government for failing to reach a decision on bringing the environment-friendly compressed natural gas (CNG) to Calcutta despite repeated directives.
CNG, available in most major cities of India, could go a long way in curbing vehicular pollution in Calcutta, where exposure to automobile pollutants is highest in the country.
The state government had early last month submitted before the eastern zonal bench of the tribunal that they would soon prepare a blueprint to bring the green gas to the city by forming a joint venture company with the GAIL.
The government's submission came during the hearing of a public interest litigation petition by environment activist Subhas Datta.
When the matter came up for hearing today, commerce and industries department secretary Rajib Kumar said the plan was not yet ready because of disagreement with GAIL on a number of issues. Nor has the joint venture company been formed.
The bench comprising Justice S.P. Wangdi and expert member P.C. Mishra took exception to the submission and observed that "the government has not taken steps as per desired speed and the statement of secretary is rather vague".
The bench gave the state "another chance (and the state) should come up specifically about what has been agreed and where and why they did not agree".
The bench also asked why the state was not running CNG buses in the city by bringing the gas from Durgapur and Asansol, where two private operators have been producing CNG from coalbed methane, found aplenty in coal mines.
The bench directed the ministry of petroleum and natural gas to conduct a survey to find out how efficiently the private organisations have been producing CNG in the Asansol-Durgapur belt and file a report. Already, a few thousand vehicles, including buses, have been running in the area on CNG.
In earlier hearings, the possibility of bringing CNG to the city in tankers from Asansol and Durgapur, as a short-term measure till GAIL lays pipes for transporting the gas, was discussed.
"We are keen to run CNG buses in Calcutta and will take a policy decision on the matter and procure the buses once GAIL finalises the plan to bring CNG to the city and set up dispensing stations," environment minister Sovan Chatterjee told Metro today.
GAIL had earlier demanded that the state create the market for CNG by buying at least 200 buses that run on the fuel every year and allotting land to set up dispensing stations, among other measures.
"CNG is critical to the survival of the city and its people. The gas could not be brought to the city in over a decade because of bickerings between the central and state governments," Datta alleged.
"Almost all major cities in the country have CNG. Calcutta is an exception though it needs the green fuel the most," said Anumita Roy Choudhury of the Centre for Science and Environment.