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Himachal Pradesh Officials have taken action to reduce traffic pollution by encouraging e-vehicles since farming communities there are among the most sensitive to climate change. According to scientific studies, the growing number of tourists and car exhaust gases are harming the high Himalayan ecosystems' eco-system. These heat-absorbing contaminants accelerate glacier melting.

In a green push, the state transport department this month became the first in the country to switch its entire fleet of petrol and diesel official vehicles to electric ones. As per the plan, all government departments will be equipped with electric vehicles within a year for a sustainable and cost-efficient system.

A total of 300 e-buses will be added to the fleet of the Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) for which an outlay of Rs 400 crore has been sanctioned, an official statement quoting Chief Minister Sukhjinder Sukhu said. A target has been set to have the entire fleet of e-buses of the HRTC by 2025.

The HRTC, which has been crucial to the state and its economy as the buses connect far-flung villages with urban areas, with over 3,500 buses has been suffering losses owing to rising petroleum prices. The electric vehicles will drastically reduce the daily expenditure of about Rs 1.5 crore incurred by the HRTC, officials admit.

Experts told IANS that the ecologically sensitive state with a huge tourism potential is expected to be one of the major beneficiaries of the decision to make the entire fleet of state roadways buses battery-driven.

The government is preparing to introduce a new electric vehicle (EV) policy, one of the top most priorities of the Congress-ruled state. A delegation from the British High Commission led by Arina Cosac, Head of Climate Change Policy, met Chief Minister Sukhu here on February 17.

The Chief Minister apprised them that the state is moving forward to become a `green energy state` by 2025 and that e-mobility will play a vital role to achieve the target. He said inputs of the survey conducted in Shimla city under India-UK PACT will help to develop it as a Smart City.

The India-UK PACT provides funding for Research Triangle Institute (RTI) to identify policy and institutional gaps around transitioning public transport to electric vehicles, both at the state and city levels. Cosac informed the Chief Minister the baseline survey was conducted in Shimla on e-mobility, multilevel transportation, and ropeways, etc.

It was the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that enabled the state to run electric vehicles on the ecologically sensitive Rohtang Pass, which lies on the watershed between the Chenab and the Beas river basins.

Now, the e-buses are being used not just on the Rohtang Pass route but also in the state capital Shimla. The government is now working on the EV policy that is likely to be launched soon.

At a meeting with a World Bank team, headed by Regional Director (Sustainable Development), South Asia Region, John Roome, this month, Chief Minster said maximum departments will switch over to electric vehicles by next year in the first phase.

Also, the Chief Minister indicated that the state is all set to go ahead in line with the National Green Hydrogen Energy Mission in a big way, apart from its production.

Though the technique of production of green hydrogen is expensive, the government will consult Indian Oil Corporation for it as IOC has taken the first significant step towards a Green Hydrogen Economy in India with the commissioning of the country`s first pure Green Hydrogen pilot plant in the northeast, an official statement said quoting the Chief Minister. The state`s draft policy was notified in January last year.

Responding to the state`s EV policy, Climate Trends research associate Archit Fursule told IANS, "With states aiming for 15 percent of new sales to be EVs by 2025 along with attracting investments into the state, as per our analysis the uptake of EVs into Himachal needs to focus on an implementation strategy which leads to a complete development of the EV ecosystem."

"Along with the state creating zero or low-emission zones in Shimla, Baddi, Dharamsala, eco-sensitive areas in all tourist destinations to allow only EVs like e-buses, auto-rickshaws, and e-cabs gives a good boost as per the policy," Fursule said.

The state`s electric vehicle policy is targeted to achieve a 100 percent transition to electric vehicles by 2030 in alignment with the United Nation`s sustainable development goals. Also, say government officials, the objective of the policy is to save the environment, accelerate demand for EVs, promote a sustainable transport system, and create a public-private charging infrastructure for EVs.

As per the policy draft, a provision for charging spots in commercial buildings like hotels and shopping malls has also been included. Across the state, the domestic rate of electrical power will be charged if an electric vehicle is charged at a domestic user facility.

In a public charging facility and commercial charging stations non-domestic and non-commercial rate of electric power would be applicable. However, the Himachal Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission will be the final authority to determine the rate of electrical power to EV charging stations from time to time.

Under the policy draft, all electric vehicles have been exempted from payment of road tax under the Himachal Pradesh Motor Vehicles Taxation Act. Commercial EVs have also been exempted from requiring permits.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Amulya Raj

Quelle/Source: msn, 19.02.2023

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