Delhi's record in green fleet
NEW DELHI, JULY 31
Delhi, one of the most polluted cities, has quietly gone on to establish a world record of sorts for its fight against air pollution, though it has been forced by the judiciary.
With the city now having the largest fleet of over 2,000 CNG-run green buses and the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) owning nearly 1,000 such, it can well stake a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
``Right now, Delhi is having the largest fleet of CNG buses and is far ahead of Los Angles which has between 900 and 1,000 buses,'' asserted a senior DTC official.
Even Argentina, which as per a World Bank estimate has five lakh CNG vehicles and a nation-wide well-knit network of 747 gas filling stations, has CNG buses operating on demonstration projects only. As far as India was concerned, the economic capital of Mumbai lagged far behind with about two dozen CNG buses.
By September 30 -- when the six-month extension period set by the Supreme Court expires -- the city is expected to have a combined fleet of more than 3,500 environment-friendly CNG buses. Of these, the DTC alone would account for 2,000 while private operators are likely to have about 1,500 buses, besides a few hundred school buses.
According to scholars in the Centre for Science and Environment and senior DTC officials, no other city right now was expected to have the entire fleet of city buses on CNG. The Los Angles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns a little over 900 CNG buses, has proposed to increase its fleet by another 500 buses and by June 2002, it plans to have 2,000 buses. Still, the city will not be entirely dependent on CNG for its public transportation. Another U.S. city, Sacramento in California, has decided from now onward that they will purchase only CNG buses, but their fleet strength, at present, is less than that of Los Angeles.
Though there were several other countries and cities which were moving towards CNG, none -- unlike Delhi -- were shifting its entire fleet to natural gas, conceded the CSE scholar. ``The sudden and abrupt shift has been only in Delhi,'' the DTC official remarked.
At the same time, they conceded that none of the cities having a fleet of CNG buses were facing the peculiar problem of long and agonising queues at filling stations like in Delhi. ``We have not come across any such problem so far, not even in Los Angles,'' the scholar said. ``It is an experimental phase that we are now passing through.''
So far, the DTC has placed orders for 2,136 CNG buses and the Corporation is fighting against all odds to put them on the roads before September 30. ``We have also decided to place orders for another 500 buses. This will increase our fleet strength to more than 2,600 buses,'' he said.
As for private operators, officials said this sector was right now plying nearly 1,200 buses. ``It is due to long queues outside the filling stations and acute shortage of natural gas that private operators are reluctant to bring in CNG buses. By September end, we expect to have at least 1,500 buses,'' said Mr. Gurnam Singh, a private operator.
Dust settles over Kerala's `red rain'
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, July 31: IT'S official. The coloured rain in some parts of Kerala was caused by the fine dust thrown up by a disintegrating meteorite. The celestial body, passing at great speed, deposited the dust in the monsoon clouds, causing the downpour of colour.
Tracing the origin to meteorite dust -- and not the ``washing of dirty linen by Marxists beaten blue and black in the Assembly elections'' as joked by an intrepid Congress Member to the collective amusement of Parliament -- scientists S. Sampath and V. Sasi Kumar, however, said they were still at a loss to explain the loud bang which reportedly accompanied the rain.
According to a Centre for Earth Sciences Studies (CESS) statement, a eastward-bound meteor exploded over Changanassery town in central Kerala around 5.30 a.m. on July 25. The burning meteorite is estimated to have spewed out some 1,000 kg of fine dust into the atmosphere. This triggered a chain of events, involving yellow, green and even black rain in Palakkad, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Pathanamthitta districts. Yellow rain was reported from Chittar in Pathanamthitta district.
The CESS Director, M. Baba, said the initial findings were based on the physical analysis of the sediments found in the rain water sample obtained from Changanassery and information culled from the residents. The chemical analysis, expected to shed more light into the quirky episode, is in progress.
According to available information, the rain was normal on the previous day. But residents were jolted out of their sleep by ``a very loud noise'' in the wee hours of July 25. A few of them also saw a flash of light.
The red showers started three hours later, fading towards the end of the 15-minute spell. The subsequent spell was normal though. According to Baba, the sound of thunder was unusual as thunderstorms do not accompany rains during this time of the year.
Coming as it did after a series of quake-related rumble, collapsing wells, swirls in well waters, cracking walls, fuming hills, sinking earth, floods, landslides and what not, the oddities that befell the verdant greens were such that the State risked being mistaken for the ``odds on country'' over the past seven months. Scientist teams from leading institutions have been virtually scouring the earth trying to explain the strange happenings by proffering what seem to be largely credible but discomfortingly divergent findings.
The fear of the ground slipping away from under their feet, if not the skies falling on the heads, have rendered the people circumspect and seeking far more reassuring words from the people concerned. The freak developments are a sign of much worse things to come, they fear.
After having heaved a collective sigh of relief that no more such incidents have been reported, the authorities are buying time before they find themselves faced with a truant Nature yet again.