The Sundarban Biosphere Reserve got its first ferryboat powered by an electric propulsion system, for cleaner last-mile transport, on 6th September 2023. The inaugural journey from the Krittibas Jana Ghat in the Patharpratima block hosted Kalyan Rudra – Chairman, West Bengal Pollution Control Board, Milan Kanti Mandal - Divisional Forest Officer, West Bengal Forest Directorate, and WWF-India officials.

The chairman of the West Bengal Pollution Control Board steers the first electric ferry boat

So far, wooden boats offering last-mile transport to different ghats inside the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve are diesel-powered. The emissions from the diesel engine, affect the health of commuters, and frequent oil spillages creates water pollution. Boat operators are also affected by increasing fuel costs and a high cost of operation due to engine and boat maintenance.

Diesel engine emissions adversely affect the health of commuters and operators alike.

© WWF-India

The pilot project by WWF-India entails retrofitting the existing diesel boats with an electric propulsion unit (with battery) without removing the diesel engine; the latter to be used as a standby for emergencies. This will benefit the environment and the boat operators.

This intervention is a part of the Climate Solutions Partnership with HSBC - a five-year philanthropic collaboration to scale climate solutions.

Additionally, data collected from the pilot will help determine the techno-financial viability of electric ferryboats in the Sundarbans. The boat operator will capture and maintain financial details on a datasheet provided by WWF-India.

Considering 84 days of operation of a diesel ferryboat, each retrofitted boat will annually: 

Reduce 450 litres of diesel consumption
- Limit 0.4 tons of CO2 emissions
- Save a minimum of Rs 39,000/-

If the concept gets adopted across 41 ferry routes within 5 blocks of the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve, with a fleet of 82 boats, it will annually:

- Reduce 70,000 litres* of diesel consumption
- Limit ~140 tons*of CO2 emissions
- Benefit approximately 50,000 commuters* directly 

WWF-India is working with the West Bengal authorities to implement this project on a progressively larger scale and show the positive impacts of adoption.

*Considering 180 days of operation per boat and 2 ferry boats per route, the above numbers are obtained