The state government was to have inducted 3,000 buses by now to check air pollution in Delhi. But with the transport department pleading that there was no depot space available for any additional fleet, it is unlikely that public transport will have a role to play in improving air quality this winter.

The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority recently notified the court that the DDA had identified 68 acres that could accommodate 1,100-1,600 buses. EPCA said, therefore, that non-availability of land for bus depots wasn't a concern any longer and that Delhi government could immediately acquire a thousand buses. The EPCA note was also sent to the LG, the chief minister and the transport minister.

Delhi will have a far lower number of buses this winter also because of the various procedural delays in acquiring new buses. As of now there are around 5,600 public transport buses when the capital is reckoned to need 11,000. To make things worse, there has been a steady decline in vehicle fleet since 2012-13, with many buses being retired due to age.

"Delhi has only 20 buses per lakh of population," informed Usman Nasim, research associate, clean air and sustainable mobility, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). Anumita Roy Chowdhury, head of CSE's air pollution campaign, added that the existing number of buses was grossly inadequate for a city with a population of 18 million and this problem needed to be addressed urgently.

EPCA believes that the use of bus terminal real estate can be optimised. Unlike bus depots, for instance, there is no overnight parking at such terminals. Also, constructing multi-level depots can help increase parking area for buses. While 120 buses can be parked in a conventional 5-acre bus depot, Master Plan Delhi 2021 provides for bi-level (basement and ground) parking to enable 180 buses being parked in the same area. However, EPCA says that a multi-level parking is more cost-efficient and has accordingly suggested that DDA replace the provision for bi-level parking with multi-level parking.

Delhi Transport Corporation officials told TOI that they failed to float tenders three or four time for new buses but found that except for one, none of the other supplying companies were willing to provide maintenance service for the lifetime of the buses. "We will float tenders again in a month or so," said an official. "We need the approval of the government for this, as well as the bus manufacturers' willingness to take the responsibility of maintenance."

Source: October 24, 2016, The Times of India