Kochi: As 'Aditya', the country's first solar ferry, successfully completed two years of operation, the state government is planning to replace majority of the state Water Transport Department's (SWTD) fleet at Alappuzha region to solar or electric-powered vessels.
The vessels are planned to be funded by the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIFBI), constituted under the Finance Department. The project, mainly aimed at reducing environmental pollution, is inspired by success of 'Aditya'. The 75-seater vessel built by Kochi-based NavAlt Solar and Electric Private Limited was launched on January 12, 2017, in the Vaikom-Tavanakkadavu section.
The SWTD operates its largest fleet at Alappuzha, a total of 28 vessels.
"We've recently made a presentation before the KIFBI board as part of a project to roll out three solar boats. However, the board members asked us to present a report on possible routes in Alappuzha region in order to replace the existing boats there with either solar or electric-powered boats. This comes to nearly 20 boats. The same will be submitted for including under the projects to be sanctioned for 2019-20 financial year," SWTD Director Shaji V.Nair told DC.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state government is in the process of deploying more modern boats, especially solar-powered ones, in order to develop the water transport sector.
"The solar ferry Aditya in the last two years served over 6.5 lakh passengers covering 38, 000 kms. It saved 58, 450 litre diesel, thereby Rs 40 lakh. Also, it helped reduce the Co2 emission by 1.29 lakh kg. The same shows the importance of the solar boat," the chief minister said in his Facebook post.
According to SWTD officials, while a diesel boat costs Rs 1.9 crore, the manufacturing cost of a solar ferry comes to nearly Rs three crore. However, the daily expense of a solar boat is only Rs 163 per day against a diesel boat's Rs 7,000. The development comes even as the SWTD is all set to roll out a solar cruise boat exclusively for tourism purpose by April and two more solar ferries to be deployed at Vaikom and Panavally in another eight months.