The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha runs from pollution deadline

Calcutta, July 2: Pitted against the clock, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government plans to petition Calcutta High Court for more time to implement the court’s order to introduce Bharat Stage-II norms for motor vehicles to check pollution.

Officials said today the chief minister has called a meeting on Friday with the transport minister, secretaries and transport engineers to ascertain the possibility of implementing the order after he realised the enormity of the task.

“There is hardly any other option left before the government,” said an official of the chief minister’s office. “If the deadline set by the court on BS-II is not extended or the order itself is not tempered, our transport system will collapse.”

The court has asked the government to ensure compliance with the BS-II norms by an estimated 15 lakh vehicles by next April. No vehicle will be allowed to ply in the Calcutta Metropolitan Area if it does not conform to the BS-II norms by the deadline.

It seems the government had briefly hoped some recent measures, like introduction of LPG as fuel for petrol-run vehicles and use of certain improved devices, would enable it to convince the court of its seriousness.

The government’s experts have, however, said no existing technology can put diesel-run old vehicles in the BS-II category.

“A permanent solution is available only in a wide-scale replacement of engines, both petrol and diesel, with BS-II ones,’’ said an expert.

The replacement cost of engines in four-wheel light vehicles is Rs 1-1.5 lakh and in heavy vehicles around Rs 4 lakh.

The government’s concern has heightened over the past few weeks following the summary rejection of its initiative to convince the transport lobbies to ensure replacement of engines.

They told the government that the owners would rather take the vehicles off the road than make such investments.

“We held several meetings with the owners and tried to convince them, but they expressed inability to invest. They even declined to take bank loans,” said a transport official.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty’s sympathies appear to be lying with the lobbies. Chakraborty said it was “humanly impossible” to change the engines of 15 lakh vehicles by April.

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