By Dr Vikas Nimesh
“The fossil fuel wars are happening right now – India might get involved if we are dependent on them.” – Pravin Bakshi, Commissioner and Secretary, Department of Power, Government of Meghalaya.
“Set the clock back a fortnight and one would know that driving on the roads of Shillong was pure bliss, knowing fully well that the feeling would be short-lived indeed. It was all about being in the moment and appreciating the free-flowing traffic as I drove to and from the secretariat. And somewhere during that drive, I recalled the almost negligible traffic on the road when I landed in Shillong a decade ago. Fast forward to the beginning of March and we are back to the serpentine lines that clog up every main road likened to the blockages of the arteries due to the unregulated lifestyle issues of our generation. Leaving home to drop my daughter to school is a journey of uncertainty fraught with bumper-to-bumper vehicular contusions. And hence the exercising of my right to walk to school became a necessity while I comfortably glide by the stationary cars. How did we come to this alarming situation? Were we deprived of our anticipatory intelligence? What are the challenges and the solutions?” — A resident of Shillong
The Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE) is leading the charge in creating awareness about energy efficiency as a valuable resource in India. One of their key strategies is promoting electric mobility as a means of transitioning to a more climate-resilient and energy-secure future. To this end, AEEE has launched a research project focused on the potential electrification of commercial and public transport fleets in the Northeastern region, with an emphasis on creating an inclusive mobility plan that engages marginalised communities and women.
Working in partnership with the government and other key stakeholders in the transport, industry, skill development, social welfare, and electric power ecosystems, AEEE is committed to facilitating the goals and targets outlined in the Electric Vehicle Policy.
A recent workshop hosted by AEEE at the Vivanta Meghalaya brought together a diverse group of participants, including representatives from educational institutions, tourism organisations, and government departments, to explore the potential for e-vehicles in public transport. This multi-stakeholder approach offers a valuable ground-up perspective for developing effective solutions to our pressing transportation challenges.
Over the past ten years, the increase in both public and private transportation options in Meghalaya has resulted in significant traffic congestion, air pollution, and carbon emissions. However, recent visual representations from a workshop have shown that buses are capable of transporting a larger number of passengers (up to 60 people) more efficiently than private vehicles. This highlights the need for promoting the use of public transportation as a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative.
To address this issue, the Government of Meghalaya has launched a shared school bus system in Shillong city, aimed at reducing traffic congestion and encouraging a mode shift in school travel from private four-wheelers to school buses. This initiative is expected to create a positive impact on the environment while also providing a safer and more convenient mode of transportation for students.
Over the last decade, the rapid increase in public and private transportation has resulted in congestion, pollution, and carbon emissions in Meghalaya. To preserve the region’s carbon sink status, reducing dependence on private vehicles is crucial. While Meghalaya is still relatively pollution-free, the state must take action to prevent pollution levels from reaching those in central India.
The hilly terrain and slow traffic speed generate more carbon monoxide and other emissions due to inefficient vehicles and improper fuel combustion. Therefore, the state must explore e-mobility solutions to address this problem. Fortunately, Meghalaya has a higher share of renewable energy in its power generation mix, making electric vehicles more viable than in other states.
Shillong, the state capital, and other tourist hotspots face environmental challenges due to their popularity, and stakeholders must develop strategies to reduce pollution, congestion, and fuel transportation challenges. The Government of Meghalaya aims to have 15 per cent of vehicles in the state be EVs by 2025 and is willing to work with all sectors for e-mobility. Switching to public transport in the form of e-buses provides cleaner air, reduced fuel costs, and increased economic growth.
To achieve its targets and promote the adoption of EVs, the state must develop strategies and incentives. These include encouraging public transport through e-buses, improving charging infrastructure, providing tax incentives, and creating awareness campaigns to promote EVs’ environmental benefits. By taking these measures, Meghalaya can reduce pollution, maintain its carbon sink status, and continue to be a leading region in environmental preservation.