CNG cleans up Delhi Air; Kerala Awaits her Turn

In the 1980s, the charms of the nation’s capital were hidden under an insidious black haze that destroyed both its historical edifices as well as the health of its people. The decade ended with New Delhi earning the dubious distinction of being one of the most polluted cities in the world.


The pre-CNG Scenario: The rapid rise in the vehicular traffic was regarded as one of the prime factors responsible for the terrible pollution in the city. Delhi’s public transport system consisted of decrepit buses and ramshackle three-wheelers puttering around the city emitting noxious fumes. Studies conducted indicated that the contribution of vehicular traffic in Delhi’s pollution levels increased from 23 percent in 1970 to a whopping 72 per cent in 2001. The suspended particulate matter was way above the limits prescribed by the ministry of environment’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards. By the 1990s the city was ranked fourth among the 41 most polluted countries in the world and pollution related diseases were on the rise. The World Bank estimated that a person was dying every 70 minutes in Delhi in 1995 from air pollution. By 1996, the Delhi air quality had deteriorated to alarming levels. (1)
The Catalyst for Change: As Delhi reeled under the impact of pollution, the catalyst for change arrived in the form of a much-applauded Supreme Court ruling in 1998. The court ordered that by April 2001 – all forms of public transport – buses, three-wheelers and taxis – would have to be replaced or converted to CNG. This deadline was extended to April 2002. By December 2002, the last diesel bus disappeared from the Delhi roads. The entire fleet of buses had been replaced by CNG operated buses. Once the momentum was achieved, things began to fall into place and by 2008 there were 3,500 buses, 12,000 taxi, 65,000 three wheelers and 5000 mini buses fuelled by CNG on Delhi’s roads. (2)




Delhi’s Green Transformation: Now powered by CNG, Delhi got a new lease of life. Between 2000 and 2008, carbon dioxide emissions reduced by 72 percent and sulphur dioxide levels came down by 57 percent(3). This happened because CNG is a relatively cleaner fuel than diesel or petrol. It lacks lead or benzene content. In addition, CNG emits fewer pollutants like sulphur oxide, nitrous oxide, suspended particulate matter, carbon di oxide and carbon monoxide.
After the conversion to CNG, the difference in the air quality was palpably apparent to its citizens. Breathing seemed easier and there were fewer instances of pollution related diseases. The international accolades soon started pouring in. In 2003, Delhi won the “Clean Cities International Award” from the US Department of Energy. As per an international study conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and E3G, Delhi’s conversion into CNG was declared as one of the top 10 policies in the world. It also recommended that the Delhi model be followed by other governments keen to develop a policy that would be both economically and environmentally beneficial.
Kerala’s Green Initiative with KGGL: Kerala is undergoing rapid urbanisation. Even as cities like Kochi grow at a hectic pace and strive to attain the status of a metro, the government has wisely foreseen that rise in vehicular traffic and the resulting rise in pollution levels is a potential danger of rapid urbanisation. The eco-friendly solution has been the setting up of the Kerala Gail Gas Limited, a joint venture between Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation and Gail Gas Limited. One of the objectives of Kerala Gail Gas Limited is to launch CNG outlets in bus stations across the state.

Given Delhi’s positive experience with CNG, we can conclude that the implementation of the project will help bring vehicular pollution under control in Kerala too. The project is expected to reduce damage to Kerala’s ecological system, improve quality of life and ensure the reduction of air pollution. The Kerala Gail Gas Limited project thus has immense significance for the state’s future well-being.



(1) Towards Cleaner Air – A Case Study of Delhi published by Department of Environment, Government of NCT & Delhi and Delhi Pollution Control Committee.
(2) & (3) Hohne, Buruck, Eisbrenner et al Scorecards on Best and Worst Policies for Green New Deal, WWI and E3G, November 2009.,

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