India's capital bets on more e-buses, solar energy to curb pollution

FILE PHOTO: Air pollution blights India's teeming capital

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's New Delhi, the world's most polluted capital, is betting on expanding its fleet of electric buses and using more solar power in the next three years to improve the city's air quality, its finance minister said on Wednesday.

The local government said it wants a 27-fold increase in the number of e-buses plying in the city by the end of 2025 to cut down on carbon emissions.

New Delhi finds itself engulfed in a thick smog every winter as cold, heavy air traps construction dust, vehicle emissions and smoke, leaving many of the city's 20 million residents struggling with respiratory illnesses.

According to data compiled by the Swiss group IQAir, New Delhi has been the world's most polluted capital for the past four years.

Presenting the national capital's budget on Wednesday, Finance Minister Kailash Gahlot said there has already been a 30% drop in lung damaging airborne particles over the last eight years - alluding to the period the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has been in power.

Gahlot said the government was planning to boost the number of electric vehicles in its fleet to 8,280 by the end of 2025 from the current 300.

"As a result, approximately 4.6 lakh tonnes (460,000 tonnes) of carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced every year," he said.

The government was also planning to ensure that 25% of the city's annual electricity demand is met through solar energy in the next three years. Currently, solar energy contributes 9% towards meeting New Delhi's requirement.

"To achieve this, the (solar) policy has set a target of installing solar infrastructure with a capacity of 6,000 MW by 2025, which will include 750 MW of 'Roof Top Solar' (RTS)," the finance minister said.

(Reporting by Sakshi Dayal; editing by Sudipto Ganguly and Christina Fincher)