Government’s plan to operate 300 electric buses fails to garner momentum

  • A BYD C6 electirc bus that was purchased by the government in October last year.
- ANUP OJHA, Kathmandu

Apr 11, 2019-

When the government, in December last year, announced that it would purchase and operate 300 electric buses in major cities soon, the news was met with optimism. The step seemed like part of a mega plan to revolutionise the country’s public transport system and a great way to lessen air pollution.

Minister for Communications and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Baskota had publicly announced that the government would import big e-vehicles as part of the government’s policy to promote electric transport system in the country.  

But four months have passed and not a single step has been taken so far, which government officials say is due to a lack of policy and expertise.

“There has been talk about operating battery-powered electric buses, but till date the ministry has done nothing,” a secretary-level official at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport told the Post on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media. “The government has formed a committee, but we need a team of experts to take the plan forward.”

But while the government has made no progress in promoting electric vehicles, the private sector has already taken progressive steps. Sundar Yatayat Pvt Ltd, a private sector company, says it has already imported two electric buses, but it has not been able to operate them.

“Instead of selling tall promises, the government should facilitate the private sector in bringing electric vehicles,” Bhesh Badhur Thapa, chairperson of Sundar Yatayat Pvt Ltd, which has bought two 40-seater electric buses, told the Post. “We have sent a five-member team to China to buy five more such buses,” he said.

“We were planning to operate our buses along the Ring Road from the first week of Baisakh (mid-April), but due to a lack of  regulatory laws, we will not be able to do so,” said Thapa. “We have bought charging machines to establish stations by paying Rs25 million, but the government has not given the approval to install them.”  

The problem, many say, is a result of lack of coordination among government agencies, even if they are operated by the government itself.

Unveiling an ambitious action plan for electric mobility on October 23 last year,  the government  had aimed a 20 percent share for electric vehicles by 2020. The action plan was aimed at halving fossil fuel consumption by 2050 in a bid to significantly improve air-quality by 2025 and to run an electric railway network by 2040.   

But when asked about the progress made so far, Kumar Prasad Dahal, director general at the Department of Transport Management, said he had no idea and shifted the focus to private companies. “The government has given priority to private companies to operate electric buses. But I am not informed about the progress made so far,” he told the Post.

Earlier the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation had imported five e-buses from Chinese automaker BYD Auto in late December for Lumbini Development Trust. But later the government announced that it had to send them back because they had failed to meet the standard. The vehicles were meant to ferry visitors from Bhairahawa International Airport to different tourist sites in Lumbini. Another controversy surrounding the same buses also had erupted after Sajha Yatayat decided to operate them in the Valley.

Published: 11-04-2019 08:32

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