CNG cancer rumour among Delhi taxi drivers

Vol 4, PW 24 (17 Jan 01) Midstream & Downstream

Eighteen months ago Delhi taxi driver Ajay Singh borrowed Rs2 lakh ($4,400) under a government-backed scheme to buy a vehicle that runs on environmentally-friendly Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).

Today, Singh is asking himself if he made the right choice. "Sir, is it true that CNG causes cancer" he asks this correspondent on hearing of the Petrotech trade fair, "We heard a patient was admitted to Apollo Hospital after getting cancer from CNG." Hardly an expert, but not stupid either, Petrowatch assured Singh that CNG does not cause cancer.

A study conducted by the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment reveals that Singh is not alone: half the taxi drivers in Delhi believe the cancer rumour to be true. "There's a lot of disinformation circulating," confirms Vivek Joshi, communications manager at Gas Authority of India, "Someone is feeding this rumour." Fingers point to the oil and diesel lobby, scared at the popularity of CNG.

Evidence is scarce, but some believe its trying to undermine a Supreme Court order that Delhi must convert its fleet of buses and taxis to CNG by a deadline of March 31st this year. It seems to be working.

Pervez Hashmi, Delhi's transport minister, has announced he will ask the Supreme Court to extend the deadline as only 137 of Delhi's buses presently run on CNG. Hashmi said Delhi has placed orders for 1,500 CNG buses but has only received 127.