No more CNG busses, govt back to square one

Anwer Hussain Sumra April 16, 2010

LAHORE: The Punjab government has now decided to run diesel powered buses while putting the CNG buses’ project on the back burner, The Express Tribune has learnt.

The government has not yet bothered to obtain a no objection certificate (NOC) from the Environmental Protection Department to operate the diesel buses.

The EPD earlier recommended the government to convert around 600 diesel buses to CNG in order to check the alarmingly high rate of pollution in the city, according to the National Environmental Quality Standard.

Muhammad Yousaf, secretary transport Punjab, has said the decision to ply diesel buses instead of the CNG ones would be an interim arrangement to lessen the burden on the existing public transport infrastructure. He confirmed that the project to import of 2000 CNG buses had been scrapped over some discrepancies.

The environment protection department was not taken on board before taking the decision, he added. Yousaf maintained that the CNG buses’ project had not been shelved,”it would be executed after the import of 300 diesel buses,” he said.

Malik Maqbool, an investor who imported CNG buses, blamed the failure of the project on the Lahore Transport Company officials. He said that the officials imported buses of lesser power to earn extra commission.

“Originally 190 horsepower buses were sanctioned and the ones imported turned out to be of 170 horsepower,” he said. The project to replace diesel buses with economical and environment-friendly buses was initiated in Pervaiz Elahi’s in tenure.

After becoming the chief minister in Feb 2008, Sharif accelerated work on the project. He signed a MoU with five investors to bring in 300 CNG buses by June 2009 and also announced 25 per cent subsidy on each bus.

The government intended to import 2500 CNG buses for Lahore and another 2500 for rest of the province by June 2011. Around 5000 were also to be imported for free pick and drop service for students studying in public schools.

Lahore Transport Company was established and a retired public servant Tasneem Noorani was appointed to head the project. A sum of Rs35 billion was set aside to subsidise the buses. Only 31 buses, each costing Rs3.8 million after Rs1 million subsidy, could be imported by June 2009.

Following that the local investors refused to import more buses and the LTC had to consult a Chinese company to import 2000 buses in November 2009.

Later, the LTC revoked the MoU with the Chinese company on grounds that it was against the public interest. The government had to offer 15 per cent subsidy on top of the 25 per cent announced earlier.


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