Oil Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Sunday said as many as 583 boats plying on the river Ganga are being operated on environment-friendly CNG as against diesel. The plan is to take this number to 2,000.

These boats are being supplied CNG from India’s first floating CNG station built by GAIL at Namo Ghat. There are also plans to add another filling station at Ravidas Ghat. “In July last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had desired that boats on the river Ganga should be run on CNG. Against the target of 500 boats, 583 have already switched to CNG and we are working to get 2,000 boats to convert,” he said.

Acknowledging that there could be some initial problems in operating CNG-driven boats, Puri said a boatman could save ₹20,000-25,000 annually this way, besides it being environment-friendly.

To promote the fuel, a race of CNG-run boats, too, was organised

In comparison to diesel, CNG is less flammable, so it is likely to reduce the risk of boat disasters. “For us, it is an extremely important step,” Puri said, adding Varanasi is among the oldest cities in the world where tradition meets modernity.

The conversion of boats to CNG was carried out under GAIL’s corporate social responsibility initiative in association with Varanasi Nagar Nigam (VNN). The floating filling station doubles as a tourist attraction, from where passengers can take the river route in eco-friendly boats to the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor. The project also includes two passenger jetties made from robust high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and a floating bridge at the Varanasi Khidkiya Ghat river access point.

(The correspondent is in Varanasi at the invitation of GAIL)