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To fight air pollution, Delhi cabinet approves hiring consultant to run 1,000 electric buses

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Delhi government on Wednesday approved the hiring of a consultant to run 1,000 electric buses to fight air pollution in the national capital. Announcing the decision, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a tweet said: "Cabinet approves hiring of consultant to run 1000 electric buses in Delhi. A big step in modernizing Delhi's transport sector and reducing pollution."

The move came days after the Supreme Court questioned the Kejriwal government over its proposal to procure low-floor electric buses and about the time required to set up charging stations for the fleet. The court directed the government to explore the possibility of using hydrogen fuel cell powered buses that are considered more cost-effective than electric buses.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in his 2018 budget had promised to roll out electric buses by April 2019. Presenting the budget, he said: "We will be the only nation besides China to have a fleet of 1,000 electric buses. The move is an important aspect of the 26-point programme and will largely help in reducing air pollution."

According to a report by WHO, Delhi is the most polluted city in the world. WHO estimates that around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air that penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia.

Last year in November, the Supreme Court had observed that comprehensive plan was needed to deal with the problem of severe air pollution in Delhi-NCR and asked the Environment Pollution Control Authority to look at long-term measures.

To fight pollution, the Central government, too, is planning to give a target to state public transporters to deploy certain percentage of electric vehicles in their new orders. As per an estimate, India at present has 1 to 1.5 lakh electric vehicles and it is projected to grow to about 5 percent of the total vehicles in the next five years. Of about 24 million vehicles sold in India in 2017-18, electric vehicles accounted for barely about 1 percent.

Author: Sustainability Outlook Desk