Railways plans to turn a green leaf through renewable energy
In an attempt to become environment-friendly, the Indian Railways plans to set up renewable energy generation capacities—such as wind power, solar energy and bio-diesel plants—for its own use, railway minister Dinesh Trivedi said in his budget speech on Wednesday.
The renewable energy plans of the railways include setting up 72 megawatts (MW) wind power plants in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. This will also help the carrier avail fiscal incentives, including tax breaks for 10 years and depreciation benefits, besides a chance to earn carbon credits.
In addition, the railways will also install biotoilets developed by state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in 2,500 coaches in the next fiscal to stem environmental degradation and corrosion of tracks due to human waste.
“The rail corrosion costs railways more than Rs.350 crore every year. As also pointed out by both Kakodkar and Pitroda committees, there is an urgent need to replace the conventional open-discharge toilets,” Trivedi said in his speech.
In February 2007, Mint wrote about human waste corroding rail tracks, forcing the railways to replace some tracks once in two years on some stretches (tracks usually have a life of 30 years).
The railways also plans to use solar energy to run 200 stations and provide lighting systems at 1,000 manned, level-crossing gates.
As part of its green energy initiative, the railways plans to run a train in north Bengal that will have a low-emission diesel locomotive and will have bio-toilets. The railways also plans to commission two biodiesel plants in 2012-13 at Raipur in Chhattisgarh and Tondiarpet in Tamil Nadu.
The plans are in sync with the national action plan on climate change that recommends India should generate 10% of its power production from solar, wind, hydropower and other renewable sources by 2015, and 15% by 2020.
However, experts are not convinced that the railways can deliver on its promises, citing high project costs.
It’s unlikely these policies can be quickly implemented, said Vineet Malhotra, a former technology adviser to the railway ministry.
“Railway budget speeches don’t really point to immediate implementation. Green toilets and solar stations have been talked of for a while, but in view of the financial condition of the railways, I don’t see it in the immediate future,” he said.
India is among the top five renewable energy producers in the world with a production capacity of 20,000MW and an additional 2,500MW of capacity being added every year, according to India’s ministry of new and renewable energy.