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Thursday, May 09, 2002

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Mahanagar Gas to invest Rs 50 cr in infrastructure

Archana Chaudhary


MAHANAGAR Gas Ltd (MGL), Mumbai's sole compressed natural gas (CNG) distributor, plans to invest more than Rs 50 crore in setting up and upgrading CNG distribution infrastructure during the fiscal, Mr A.K. Purwaha, Managing Director, has said.

"We plan to increase the number of online CNG dispensing stations and upgrade `daughter booster stations' in the city to 45 from the current 26, by March-end. We will also need to invest in laying pipelines to ensure supplies,'' Mr Purwaha told Business Line.

MGL, a 50:50 joint venture between British Gas India and Gas Authority of India, is currently in talks with oil marketing majors Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and Bharat Petroleum for setting up CNG dispensing stations at retail outlets.

"We have also approached the Maharashtra Government and private land owners for land in the suburbs,'' he said.

So far, lack of adequate number of CNG filling stations has been the biggest complaint of taxi and rickshaw owners in Mumbai.

"CNG requires no storage as the gas is supplied through pipelines. We only have to invest in setting up dispensing units and in laying the pipelines. The average cost amounts to about Rs 2.5 crore per station and around the same for laying a 1-km pipeline,'' Mr Purwaha said.

Investing in enhancing CNG infrastructure is expected to ensure that India's financial Capital does not suffer the same fate as Delhi.

Last month, the public transport system in the Capital virtually collapsed due to public outrage over inadequate supplies and increased CNG prices.

The Supreme Court had, on April 5, said that switching to CNG buses would be the permanent solution to tackling pollution in the National Capital Region.

Following this, the Mumbai High Court also ordered taxis and autorickshaws in Mumbai to switch to CNG.

The HC has extended the deadline for CNG conversions to August 31.

The city's taximen, however, are unsure of the quality of infrastructure.

"The collapse of a single dispensing station usually leads to a system collapse, across the city. We not only need more stations, but also more reliable service,'' said Mr A.L. Quadros, President, Mumbai Taximen's Association. Of the 43,000 taxis plying on Mumbai roads, 28,000 cabs already use CNG.

"We may not face a crisis similar to Delhi, because we do not have to supply CNG to all public transport buses in Mumbai. The HC order is limited to cabs and rickshaws,'' Mr Purwaha said.

Currently, natural gas allocation to MGL is at 1.5 million standard cubic metres per day (mscmpd), while only 0.5 mscmpd is sold.

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