It’s very good that the city is gradually but almost totally embracing the CNG path for public transport vehicles. However, it needs to augment the goodness with some refreshing green of nature too.

Recently when a doctor from Bangalore visited the city to attend a conference, he could not help but comment on the cleaner and greener Ahmedabad. “It has really changed a lot since the days I used to live here”. While the ‘greener’ part of his observation is a bit debatable, there is not even an iota of doubt that the usual Amdavadi air feels a lot cleaner these days. A lot of the credit for the same should go to making CNG mandatory for AMTS city buses and auto rickshaws.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is a substitute for petrol or diesel fuel. It is considered to be an environmentally ’clean’ and is made by compressing methane (CH4) extracted from natural gas. It is stored and distributed in hard containers, usually cylinders.

Natural Gas is an organic compound that is found deep within the earth. It is a fossil fuel formed over millions of years of geological pressures and changes. Natural gas is primarily methane comprised of hydrogen and carbon.

CNG is often confused with LNG. While both are stored forms of natural gas, the key difference is that CNG is in compressed form, while LNG is in liquified form.

In the wake of torturously high fuel prices and environmental concerns, compressed natural gas is fast gaining currency across the globe as an economical and ‘healthy’ fuel. It is now increasingly used in light-duty passenger vehicles and pickup trucks, medium-duty delivery trucks, and in transit and school buses.

The two soccer power-houses of the world, Brazil and Argentina, are  two countries with the largest fleets of CNG vehicles. Other South American nations are following them to dot the landscape with CNG stations. Closer home, our neighbours on either flank, Pakistan and Bangladesh, seem to be competing with us in the race towards conversion from regular fuel to CNG. In fact, according to the International Association for Natural Gas Vehicles, Pakistan has the third-largest number of natural gas vehicles! But it is the The Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) that operates the world’s largest fleet of CNG buses. With the way Ahmedabad is booming beyond its seam and its excitement with the new fuel, AMTS might soon give DTC good company.

CNG, without doubt, is a clean-burning fuel. No carbon or acid goes into oil and no liquid fuel is required to wash oil from top piston ring. In addition, it is much more fuel efficient in comparison to gasoline. Because of the clean-burning fuel, it increases the longevity of the vehicle and maintenance intervals are increased. Sparkplugs seem to last forever and oil is still yellow when you change it.

Natural Gas is lighter than air. This means that it will not puddle (like gasoline) or sink to the ground like propane, which is heavier than air. Instead, Natural Gas will rise and dissipate in the atmosphere.

Natural gas also has a higher ignition temperature. This means that it is much harder to ignite. Also the storage systems used for compressed natural gas are infinitely stronger that the gasoline tanks found on cars and trucks today.

The equipment required for CNG to be delivered to an Otto-cycle engine includes a pressure regulator (a device that converts the natural gas from storage pressure to metering pressure) and a gas mixer or gas injectors (fuel metering devices). Earlier-generation CNG conversion kits featured venturi-type gas mixers.

There are many benefits of using CNG:

  1. Environment friendly – CNG considerably reduces vehicular emissions. CNG run vehicles have emissions lower than petrol run vehicles and significantly lower than diesel run vehicles.
  2. Economical – It reduces running costs of the vehicle, thereby lightening economic burden of an average Indian customer’s already stretched pockets. CNG can save upto 60% on fuel cost.
  3. Corporate organisations and firms can claim 100% depreciation for CNG conversion kits as pollution control equipment.
  4. It also reduces the burden on the National Exchequer, since CNG is available in plenty in India, unlike petrol or diesel which need to be imported, resulting in the outflow of valuable foreign exchange.
[Benefits list courtesy: Maruti Udyog Ltd.]

Natural Gas is lighter than air. This means that it does not puddle (like gasoline) or sink to the ground like propane, which is heavier than air. Instead, Natural Gas rises and dissipates in the atmosphere.

But that’s just about as far as it goes in making Ahmedabad a better place. It makes it clean to a reasonable extent, but the city still has to put its best forward to make itself green.

We propose a future where roads carry vehicles running on CNG, while being dotted on either side by trees. Visualise that for every road of Ahmedabad and you’ll fall in love with life.

As students of botany and environment would tell us, the task in itself is not such an impossible one. For starters, species like Gulmohar are easy to grow, low on maintenance and grow well even in Ahmedabad’s arid climate. And the whole process does not cost much. The real challenge, as everywhere, is not as much about growing up as it is about maintenance. And that is one arena where no idea can succeed unless there is a public-private partnership. Where the authorities provide the infrastructure and materials and public provides service to the plants. If every family adopts five plants each, the city can replicate the white revolution that AMUL had so magnificently given rise to. There, simpleton villagers were the key players. We’ve got our education & awareness to add on to that.


Author. Entrepreneur. Filmmaker. Journalist.

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