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Bengal balks at clean-air deadline

Calcutta, Dec. 13: The Bengal government today made it clear it will not be able to meet the Calcutta High Court deadline to ensure compliance with the Bharat Stage-II emission standard for all vehicles plying in the Calcutta metropolitan area.

Despite the court’s blunt refusal yesterday, the government may pray for more time to implement the order. If the court refuses to give an extension, the government said, those vehicles which do not conform to the new norms would have to stay off the roads after April 2, 2004.

The high court yesterday had ticked off the government for its “dilly-dallying tactics” in implementing the directive that all vehicles should comply with Bharat Stage-II norms or switch to more environment-friendly fuel like CNG and LPG by April 2.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said the government was doing its “best” and would submit the progress report to the court when it opens after the Christmas recess. “We will try our best, but the task is far too enormous to be completed by April 2004,” Chakraborty said from Chennai.

He said the state would have been in a position to implement the norms within the deadline if CNG was available. “We shall inform the court of the reasons for our inability to meet the deadline. However, if the court even then declines to extend the deadline, then those vehicles which have not switched to the new norms will have to be off the roads after April 2004.”

“We are not sitting idle,” Chakraborty said. “The transport department has taken several effective steps in response to the court order. We have held a series of meetings with different transport agencies and tried to convince them of the need to maintain the BS-II norms. We have urged automobile manufacturers to provide some concessions to vehicle owners who will replace their old engines with new ones. We are also making sure that new engines are easily available.”

Explaining the delay in the implementation of the court order, he said: “Initially, the vehicle owners were totally reluctant to abide by the court order, citing financial difficulties. Non-availability of new engines and other devices and qualified technicians was also a matter of concern. Now the vehicle owners have realised that they have to abide by the order and started taking necessary steps.”

The transport department has already decided to scrap state buses, which have been plying for more than eight years. “We have also purchased 100 BS-II buses and expect to get another 100 very soon. The old buses will be gradually replaced by new ones,” Chakraborty said.

“We have already succeeded in upgrading old engines by introducing some anti-pollution devices developed by automobile engineers from Bangalore, Chennai and Maharashtra. The results have been satisfying,” Chakraborty asserted. He said automobile experts from Bangalore and Chennai would soon be camping at different motor vehicle offices and transport depots to help upgrade engines.

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