Measures for saving fuel | Daily News

Measures for saving fuel

A disturbing development that certainly is going to affect the future of the country’s younger generation as well as that of the Nation has emerged with the education of our school-going population threatened as a direct result of the current economic crisis or more specifically, the chronic fuel shortage.

Television reported that most parents have stopped sending their children to school due to the prohibitive transport costs (the monthly fee for a school van is now nearly Rs. 12,000) which many cannot afford due to the runaway Cost of Living (CoL) and other hassles of living pre-occupying their minds.

A mother in a LP Gas queue interviewed on TV said she was forced to send her child to the Kerosene queue while many others had similar tales of woe. Television footage also showed young schoolboys with school bags hanging from their shoulders spilling out perilously from the footboard of a fast-moving train. The parents obviously have opted for the less expensive mode of transport which the trains provide although travel is hazardous with the compartments overcrowded.

With school van owners too threatening to pull out from service soon if the authorities fail to provide a quota of fuel, a bleak future awaits our schoolchildren. First, it was COVID-19 that stalled their education and now it is the economic crisis.

The younger generation should certainly not be made to pay for the wrong policy decisions of politicians. A swift solution should be evolved by the authorities to deal with this crisis affecting our next generation. The country is already paying a heavy price due to the exodus of professionals, intellectuals and experts in myriad fields over the decades due to wrong policies and especially discrimination based on racism and other factors practised by politicians. Hence the call by youthful agitators for a ‘System Change’ and a complete overhaul of the country’s moribund political culture.

All sectors are going to be paralysed in the coming days stemming from the fuel crisis. Already private buses have pulled out between 80- 85 per cent of their fleet according to the President of the Private Bus Owners’ Association Gemunu Wijeratne.

He said the diesel shipment that was due to arrive yesterday will take at least two days to unload and until such time there could be no fuel supply, forcing private buses off the road. If by Monday (20) their demand for giving priority to private buses for diesel is not met, the entire fleet might cease to operate, he has warned.

It is ominous that this will be the last fuel shipment provided through the Indian Credit Line. What happens after that? Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has allayed such fears, saying the Government was confident of obtaining sufficient fuel stocks to last for four months, provided that only 50 per cent of the total demand is met.

If this is the impending scenario, the answer lies in fuel conservation. In this respect, certain measures being implemented by Transport Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena deserve praise. The Minister launched a ‘Park and Ride’ system which is aimed at reducing fuel consumption and traffic congestion. Under this system, those arriving in their private vehicles to Makumbura, Katubedda and Kadawatha will be able to park their vehicles and commute via luxury buses to Colombo City. The service will operate every ten minutes to Colombo from 6.30 a.m. to 8 a.m. and every 15 minutes from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. from Colombo. The Minister should consider extending the 6 p.m. deadline by another half an hour or so considering the work schedules of the private sector.

The Minister has also launched 20 new Sisu Seriya school bus services to Colombo at nominal fares with a promise to increase this to 50 buses. This will be a boon to parents who are forced to keep their children at home due to the steep rise in bus and van fares. The school bus service should be expanded to cater to underprivileged families in other Provinces.

Former Minister MP Udaya Gammanpila too has introduced feasible proposals aimed at fuel conservation among which is a temporary withdrawal of all 2.0 Litre engine capacity vehicles (petrol and diesel) from the roads, the curtailment of the working week to four days to be made up by a 10-hour working day and in the alternative, a three-day working week with the other two days designated for Working from Home (WFH).

He has also proposed that Public Servants be posted to workplaces close to their homes and that all Government and Private sector conferences be conducted via Zoom technology. He also revealed that 40 per cent of fuel spent on school transport could be saved by confining in-person classrooms to three days a week, augmented by two days of online lessons.

The former Minister has also suggested that passenger buses for short distances be deployed only for “Standing Passengers” as another fuel saving measure. Of course, not all measures suggested by Ministers, MPs, professionals and others may be practical. But every method should be tried irrespective of their outcome. After all, desperate situations call for desperate measures.



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