The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bengal throws up hands on pollution

Calcutta, July 4: The state government today said it would petition Calcutta High Court for more time to implement the court’s order to introduce Bharat Stage-II norms for motor vehicles to arrest pollution in the city and adjoining areas.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today chaired a meeting with transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, environment minister Manab Mukherjee and advocate-general Balai Ray to thrash out the problem of changing the engines of 15 lakh vehicles to ensure compliance with BS-II norms by April next year — a task considered by the transport minister as “humanly impossible”.

“We will have to approach the high court and seek more time. We have found out that Rs 20,000 crore will be required to get 15 lakh vehicles to conform to BS-II standard. It is virtually impossible. We will have to go about it in phases,” said Chakraborty.

He said it was decided that motor vehicles that hit the road before 1992 would be scrapped if the engines are not changed. “We will also inform the court about our good intentions and the plans we have to check pollution in and around the city.”

The chief minister, however, declined comment “as the government will have to approach the court”.

The court order prevents vehicles from plying in the Calcutta Metropolitan Area if they do not conform to the BS-II norms by the April 2004 deadline.

It appears that the government initially thought it would be able to convince the court of its seriousness by taking measures such as introduction of LPG as fuel for petrol-run vehicles and use of certain improved devices.

Experts have, however, pointed out that no existing technology can put diesel-run old vehicles in the BS-II category. They said a permanent solution is available only in the replacement of engines, both petrol and diesel, with BS-II ones.

According to Chakraborty, the replacement involves an expenditure of about Rs 20,000 crore. The replacement cost of an engine in a four-wheel light vehicle is Rs 1.15 lakh and in a heavy vehicle around Rs 4 lakh.

The government is also in a spot as transport lobbies have summarily rejected its initial moves to convince them to ensure replacement of engines.

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

Also, a six-point alternative proposal has been lined up by the government to check auto-emission without having to implement the Calcutta High Court order. It will inform the court about the proposals, which, if approved by the court, would enable it to bypass the BS-II diktat.

The six-point proposal includes adoption of a staggered engine-replacement programme, large-scale introduction of compressed natural gas (CNG), exploring the possibility of using bio-gas and coal-based methane gas, deferment of the April 2004 deadline and introduction of battery-driven and solar-powered engines.

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