Kolkata, Oct 27: The West Bengal government has undertaken a major pollution control drive on the eve of Diwali banning not only crackers and bombs but taking a pledge for converting all petrol-run transport in the state to gas. Not only autos, if all goes well, people of the state will board only gas-run buses from New Year and all the other vehicles will gradually switch over from oil to gas.
Official sources said the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) would supply the 'green fuel' from Jharkhand which would be channelised to the state government through a private company. The ONGC had discovered the coal-bed methane gas under the mines located at Jharia and Parbatpur of Jharkhand after a comprehensive drilling programme, the sources said.
Initially, though the natural gas would be available only for government buses, the facility would be extended to all private vehicles later, the sources said adding gas pumps were being set up in various bus depots across the city.
According to State Transport secretary Sumantra Chowdhury, an agreement had been signed between the private company and the state government in regard to the supply of gas from Jharkhand.
Mr Chowdhury informed that the state government was purchasing 150 new buses, priced at Rs 3.5 lakh each, for the purpose and added that gas-kit would also be attached to the old buses.
''The state government is committed to controlling all polutions and considered the Diwali eve fit to announce bringing of the entire transport sector under the pollution control programmes,'' Mr Chowdhury observed.
Mr Chowdhury informed that the Union Environment Ministry had already decided to grant 50 per cent subsidy in regard to the purchase of a gas-kit for buses. He also said in line with this policy, the state government had approved the subsidy of Rs 1000 to the owner of an auto converting from oil to gas.
Mr Chowdhury said the main gas-station, from where the gas-kits would be supplied to various parts of the state, would be set up at Dankuni in Hooghly district. The cost of the 'green fuel' was estimated at Rs 27 per litre.
The announcement of converting petrol-run buses and other vehicles to gas came four days after the twist to the pollution control programme of the state government declaring that only LPG-run autos would be allowed on roads from next year.
Talking to mediapersons at the Writers Buildings, State Transport Minister Subhash Chakrabortry said all petrol-run autos would be barred from plying after December 31.
Mr Chakraborty said the cost of an LPG-run auto would be Rs 1,26,000 for which banks would provide a loan of Rs 95,000, while the state government would extend an assistance of Rs 10,000.
The owner of an auto was to bear the rest of the cost, he added.
Mr Chakraborty informed that altogether 42,000 registered autos were plying on the streets and there were a large number of unregistered autos.
He said 3000 autos were seized before the Durga Puja and the campaign has been intensified.
Mr Chakraborty also informed that 30 new LPG godowns were coming up to help start the process.