Cuttack, Aug. 11: The deadly combination of diesel and kerosene by owners of commercial fleet is polluting the city’s clean air and exposing residents to the risk of severe respiratory ailments and life-threatening diseases.
“The increasing use of adulterated diesel is cause for concern as vehicles running on it emit more smoke after combustion. Prolonged exposure to such pollution leads to increasing diabetes, hypertension and cancer apart from acute respiratory problem,” Dr Bamadev Mohanty told The Telegraph.
According to conservative estimates, nearly 2,500 heavy vehicles in the city that include buses, trucks, tractors and over 500 autorickshaws run on diesel.
Majority of these vehicles allegedly blend diesel with kerosene or use only kerosene to achieve better economy. But the profit motive leaves behind a trail of pollution hazards.
“Use of adulterated diesel or only kerosene by both buses and trucks has become a serious problem as they increase atmospheric pollution through improper combustion,” said Debendra Kumar Sahu, general secretary of All Orissa Private Bus Owners’ Association.
“Those using adulterated fuel may be doing it for short-term gains but in the long run, the life span of diesel engines will be reduced,” Sahu told The Telegraph today.
He added that such vehicles should be seized and permits cancelled. “Besides, availability of kerosene meant for the poor in the black market needs to be checked,” he said.
Sources said using kerosene as vehicular fuel, which costs Rs 25 per litre in the black market as against the public distribution system (PDS) price of Rs 13.50 a litre, was cost-effective as diesel was sold for Rs 41.86 a litre.
Promising action against trucks, buses, tractors and autorickshaws running on adulterated fuel, civil supply officer, Cuttack, Santosh Mishra, told The Telegraph that the diversion of PDS kerosene would be checked.
Special squads comprising officials of the civil supply department and the regional transport office would initiate raids and seizures to identify vehicles using diesel blended with kerosene.
Kerosene meant for distribution in Cuttack district under the PDS is being allegedly diverted in large quantities to adulterate diesel.
Sources said the racket dealing in adulterated fuel involved kerosene wholesalers, retail dealers and government officials.
“The illegal practice is not restricted to the use of adulterated diesel only. Many vehicles are now using just kerosene,” the civil supply officer conceded.
He said: “We can take legal action against such vehicles, but not before getting samples of the fuel tested. If it is proved that kerosene is being used then the owners of the vehicles would be prosecuted under the Essential Commodities Act.”
B.B. Das, assistant environment scientist at the regional office of State Pollution Control Board in Cuttack, said: “We can do nothing on the issue. The transport department has been assigned to monitor it through authorised pollution testing centres”.
Regional transport officer, Cuttack, Subendu Kanungo, however, said: “All vehicles are supposed to turn up at authorised pollution testing centres periodically. If they do not have valid pollution certificate, we impose a penalty of Rs 1,000 during enforcement checks.”
“As per the Motor Vehicles Act it is illegal to use kerosene in vehicles and a violation attracts fine of Rs 1,000,” the regional traffic officer said and added, “Action will be taken against the defaulters.”
Official sources said district collector Kishore Kumar Mohanty had ordered for the crackdown on heavy vehicles using kerosene at a meeting convened on Tuesday to improve distribution of kerosene in Cuttack city and other parts of the district. The issue of scarcity of kerosene due to its alleged use by vehicles was raised at the meeting. Mohanty warned of strict action against those using kerosene in vehicles. “It has become necessary to control this illegal practice through crackdowns,” said Mohanty.