It will be “impossible” for the government to switch to Bharat Stage (BS) II norms by April 4.
This is the crux of the report of the technical committee, set up by the government to comply with the Calcutta High Court ‘clean-air’ deadline. On the basis of this committee’s report, submitted on Tuesday, the government is expected to move court seeking a pushback of the deadline till at least this September.
In 2003, the high court had instructed the government to ensure that all vehicles plying in the Calcutta Metropolitan Area (Calcutta, Howrah, parts of Hooghly, North and South-24-Parganas) complied with the BS II norms by April 4. In the last hearing in November last year, the court had asked the government for a “progress report” in the matter, in response to which the 15-member technical committee was set up.
Headed by pollution control board member-secretary S.K. Sarkar, the committee has observed that unless the central government fixes the tail-pipe emission standards for BS II, it will not be possible to comply with the court’s order. Delhi is expected to announce the BS II standards in September.
“In the absence of a standard, it will not be possible for us to find out if a vehicle is complying with the BS II norms. So, it is better to wait till the standards are specified,” said H. Mohan, joint secretary in the transport department and convener of the technical committee.
The report has identified several roadblocks to justify the demand for more time before putting down a few recommendations:
*Lobby the Centre to make CNG available in Calcutta and to provide an adequate number of LPG outlets
*Pressure the Centre to issue the tail-pipe emission standards notification as soon as possible
*Involve financial institutions to help commercial vehicle-owners replace engines
*Allot additional funds to upgrade state buses and other government vehicles
*Provide technical and financial assistance for engine/fuel switchover process
*Convince the court to modify the order according to the ground realities.
“Our views and observations are practical,” claimed Sarkar. “All members of the committee are experts,” added transport minister Subhas Chakraborty.
Voicing concern, A.V. Ayengar of Concern for Calcutta said the government must start the process of fighting air pollution. “There are practical problems, but let them at least do whatever little is possible,’’ he said.