Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, in his maiden Budget presentation on Thursday, proposed a slew of measures to make the Railways, the country's largest public transporter, more environment-friendly.
Apart from allocating resources for infrastructure development, Prabhu - in his maiden Railway Budget presented in the Parliament - outlined proposals to establish and maintain an environment-friendly railway system.
The railway minister proposed setting up of an 'environment directorate' in the railway board to give increased focus on environment management.
He focused on rationing the energy consumption of the railways, which is the largest consumer of both diesel and electricity in the country.
"Thrust will also be given for adoption of energy efficient LED (light-emitting diode) luminaires, appliances, as a part of an energy conservation drive. A detailed energy audit will reveal huge potential for energy saving," Prabhu said in his budget speech that lasted for 66 minutes.
The minister said the railways have a huge potential of generating electricity through the promotion and adoption of solar power plants on railway properties.
"To reduce dependence on fossil fuels, it is intended to expand sourcing of solar power as part of the solar mission of Railways," Prabhu said.
He elaborated that work is in full swing at the solar power plant at Katra station, which is slated to be completed by March 2015.
The minister proposed to set up 1,000 megawatt solar plants on railway and private land and on rooftop of railway buildings with the financial aide of viability gap funding support by the ministry of nonrenewable energy in the next five years.
Prabhu informed the Lok Sabha that railways had launched water conservation mission. He said water recycling plants will be set up at major water consumption centres after conducting water audit.
He cited that all railway workshops are in the process of getting accredited for environment management.
"This will be extended to the loco-sheds, major coaching and wagon maintenance depots," the railway minister said.
Pointing at the railways measures to diversify its fuel consumption, he said CNG (compressed natural gas) based DEMUs (diesel-electric multiple unit) have been introduced on the Northern Railway.
"It is proposed to convert 100 DEMUs to dual fuel - CNG and diesel. Locomotives running on LNG (liquefied natural gas) are also currently under development," Prabhu informed the Lok Sabha.
Reduction of noise levels of locomotive at par with international norms was also proposed. Whereas the railways will showcase its sensitivity towards wildlife by factoring in concerns related to their environment was also proposed by the minister.
The former chartered accountant added that greater investment in railways was required for ecological sustenance. He presented the rationale that the railways consumed far less energy and produced less pollution in comparison to other modes of transportation.
Prabhu pointed out that the annual consumption of fuel by the railways is just about seven percent of the annual fuel consumption by the road sector. Energy consumption is about 75-90 per cent less for freight traffic when compared to road.
"The carbon dioxide emission is about 80 per cent less than road. Investment in Indian Railways is an investment in our future. It is an investment in our sustainability. It is an investment for posterity," the minister said.