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Capital gains and southern stratagems

No time. No money. So, no go. With the Bengal government doing nothing to comply with Bharat Stage-II (BS-II) norms and clean the foul Calcutta air, it’s only fair to take a look at two metros that are well on the path to pollution-free progress, Delhi and Bangalore.

The Capital had witnessed a three-year-long drama, with the government trying to push back a Supreme Court deadline to switch its public transport system from diesel to compressed natural gas (CNG). Now, Delhi breathes easier, with more than 9,000 buses being powered by CNG.

The clean-up call had first come with the Supreme Court, in its July 28, 1998, order, giving the Delhi government till March 31, 2001, to convert diesel-run buses in the Capital to CNG.

“The initial reluctance in implementing the court order had to do with a lack of government will and pressure from various transport lobbies,” said Chandrachur Ghose, assistant coordinator of the air pollution control unit of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). Then came the ‘do-it-now’ court rap.

Now, with 18 CNG pumps (Rs 16.83 per kg) for private buses and nine filling stations for DTC buses; buses switching to CNG for Rs 3 lakh and taxis for Rs 25,000, the Congress government crows about having the “world’s largest fleet of environment-friendly buses”.

Delhi transport minister Ajay Maken has a spot of advice for Writers’ Buildings: “The government should not leave any ambiguity and confusion on the Bharat Stage-II norms… It should not think of buying time. It will gain people's praise when the air becomes cleaner.”

Down south, in Bangalore, BS-II norms have to be implemented by 2003, and Euro III and its equivalent emission norms for all categories of vehicles by April 1, 2005. The state transport department launched a triple-E drive: education, encouragement and enforcement.

After the amendment of the Motor Vehicles Act, Section 115, which allows the use of LPG and CNG in vehicles, Karnataka has been pushing the bi-fuel mode in a big way. On that count, it’s operation autorickshaw in Bangalore.

To date, 64 of the 68,897 three-wheelers have been retrofitted with LPG in bi-fuel mode and 55 new autos have been registered in similar mode. Another 35,000 are running with unauthorised LPG kits, with detachable cylinders filled horizontally. Retrofitting of LPG kit varies from Rs 12,000 to Rs 21,000. There are five auto LPG dispensing stations in Bangalore, and 10 more due by December.

And to phase out vehicles over the age of 20, 15 enforcement squads are slamming the brakes on milk and garbage vans and vegetable trucks.

Is our transport minister Subhas Chakraborty listening'

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