The state environment department has woken up to the dangers of diesel vehicles, especially old commercial ones, plying on city roads but the transport department is scuttling the possibility of curbs.
“Old diesel vehicles are a major source of pollution in Calcutta. We discussed the matter with transport department officials a few months back. We have been waiting for the department to come up with an action plan,” said M.L. Meena, the environment secretary.
“Under section 19 of Air Pollution (Prevention and Control) Act, 1981, we have the power to give direction to the vehicle registration authority about the fuel to be used in the city,” pointed out Meena. The transport department, however, may or may not act as directed.
“The transport department officials had said in the meeting that a case regarding ban on old vehicles was pending in the high court and they would come up with a detailed plan once the matter was resolved,” said Biswajit Mukherjee, senior law officer of the environment department.
The government lost the case on technical grounds in the last week of November after failing to field a representative for the hearing. The transport action plan will hence take more time.
“We have been discussing the issues with the departments concerned and will require more time to make any change,” stated a transport department official. According to him, the state government’s policy on the matter has to be finalised first.
“We are trying everything possible with our infrastructure to combat vehicular pollution,” said Ranjit Maity, the joint secretary of the transport department.
In 2005, an Asian Development Bank study, supported by the pollution control board, recommended a “Diesel Bus Conversion and CNG Clean Fuels Programme” in the city based on the finding that 90 per cent of Calcutta’s respirable particulate matter came from diesel vehicles.
The study advised the government to follow the Delhi example of running buses on CNG, pegged the capital cost of conversion to Rs 525 crore and set a 2010 deadline for the project. The recommendations remained only on paper.