The government, through external support, would procure 10 electric buses and 30 electric taxis, according to the information and communications minister, Karma Donnen Wangdi.

This was shared yesterday during the question hour at the National Assembly.

The minister said the move would promote green and inclusive transport in the country.

He said the government is seeking support from Green Climate Fund (GCF) to procure 10 electric buses. “United Nation Development Fund’s Global Environmental Facility (GEF) is granting Nu 2.64M to provide policy and regulatory support, awareness and capacity enhancement and convert 300 taxis to electric taxis and establish quick charging stations.”

Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi said this in response to Bartsham-Shongphu MP, Passang Dorji’s query on details of the government’s green and inclusive public transport and electric car project.

Passang Dorji said the government is spending Nu 102.6 million (M) in the 2019-20 financial year for green public transport but there are problems in importing electric car. “How is the government going to ensure there is no monopoly for importers and there are adequate charging stations?”

Lyonpo said the government would ensure there is no monopoly to the importer and anyone could participate in the quotation as long as they fulfil the criteria.

He said the information and communications ministry initiated Bhutan Transport 2040 report and Integrated Strategic Vision in 2011. “In 2012, there was a study conducted on the urban transport system and in 2017, the ministry and National Environment Commission developed a strategy for low emission development in the transport sector.”

The government had provided 60 percent loan subsidy to public transport bus owners to operate in remote areas to promote inclusive public transport.

“In urban places, four seats were also identified in the buses for differently-abled, old and young people,” he said. “To make travelling convenient for differently-abled people, wheelchair ramps were also introduced in Thimphu and Phuentsholing bus stations.”

The minister said that the government also has plans to increase the number of buses plying to 150 gewogs from 143 gewogs.

He said that to convert the taxis to electric taxis, the government would either provide 20 percent discount to the interested taxi owners or USD 5,500 as support. “The taxi owners would also be provided 50 percent of the loan from financial institutions.”

He said the government has identified 55 places to establish quick charging stations. Lyonpo said the government collaborated with external agencies to procure electric taxis, as taxi is the main mode of transport.

Drametse-Ngatsang MP Ugyen Wangdi asked if it was necessary to procure electric cars to promote green and inclusive transport and why not procure electric buses.

He also provided an alternate policy suggesting if the amount that could be provided as subsidy for electric cars could be used for other initiatives like biogas. “Electric taxis would also cause traffic and parking congestions.”

Bardo-Trong MP Gyembo Tshering asked if the electric taxis would produce low emission and conserve the environment. “Electric vehicle initiative was not successful in the past and I wonder how it could serve the purpose this time.”

He said providing electric ovens to the rural households would help.

Tashi Dema