The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Clean-air pledge up in smoke
- Deadline expires, only one test centre in place

Fume is not the only thing hanging heavy in the air this winter. The state government's promise to clean up the air Calcutta breathes seems just as foul.

On October 1, transport secretary Sumantra Chowdhury had promised that multi-gas analyser machines would be installed at auto-emission testing centres within a month.

That was also the day advocate-general Balai Ray sought more time from the court to submit a status report on the installation of the machines.

A Calcutta High Court division bench, comprising Justice Barin Ghosh and Justice Aloke Kumar Basu, extended the deadline till November 24.

But till Wednesday evening, only one of 69 auto-emission testing centres approved by an expert committee for the new machinery is functional.

There too, the mandatory post-installation technical vetting by the pollution control board has not yet begun.

Surjya Service Station at Bagbazar aside, four centres in the Dhakuria, Jodhpur Park, Moulali and Rabindra Sarobar areas will need at least another month to be operational.

The matter is likely to come up before the green bench on Thursday, when the transport department will have to submit the status report.

'You will find at least 100 auto-emission testing centres equipped as per the new rules within a month,' transport secretary Chowdhury repeated on Wednesday.

'We have issued a strict instruction to all testing centres to instal new machines. Most have placed orders for equipment,' he stressed.

Without any way of accurately measuring emission as per the new norms, police have just about stopped checking smoke-spitting vehicles.

The national standard for measuring emissions of both petrol and diesel-run vehicles came into effect nation-wide on October 1.

The Union road transport and highways ministry regulations specify that emissions have to be measured by computerised multi-gas analyser machines (for petrol-run vehicles) and opacymeters (for diesel vehicles), instead of the existing two-gas analysers.

The machines also have respirable particulate matter and engine temperature censors, to ensure figures are consistent.

Web cameras will be attached to the machines to photograph the licence plates of tested vehicles. The pollution-under-control certificate can only be issued after testing by the new system.

'We got the Automotive Research Association of India's approval for the new machine only on September 27. Without that, we could not instal the new machines,' argued H. Mohan, director, public vehicles department. By that time, he said, it was not possible to meet the court deadline.

Logistical problems have also been cited. 'Installation of both machines costs nearly Rs 6 lakh. It takes time and installation requires expert supervision. But we have taken steps to ensure installation of as many new machines as possible within a month,' added Mohan.

In Calcutta, the delay has been blamed on non-availability of equipment. But in cities like Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, in the absence of technology tools, upgradation, rather than a complete overhaul, has been the way around the foul-air pocket.

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