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West Bengal govt to seek extension of National Green Tribunal order on old vehicles

State wants more time to phase out all old vehicles

Subhajoy Roy | Published 28.07.22, 06:32 AM
A taxi belching black fumes in the city.

A taxi belching black fumes in the city.

File photo

The state government will appeal to the National Green Tribunal to extend the six-month deadline that the tribunal has fixed for the state to phase out all vehicles that are 15 years old or older from West Bengal, transport minister and Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim told The Telegraph on Wednesday.

Hakim said the state government has already phased out several buses belonging to the transport department that were 15 years old or more. The six-month deadline is too short a time to phase out all such vehicles, he said. The state transport will simultaneously issue a notification saying that all such vehicles have to be phased out.

“We will appeal to the NGT to extend the deadline. We are already taking steps to phase out vehicles that are 15 years old or more. We will also issue a notification mentioning that vehicles that are at least 15 years old must be phased out,” he said.

“There are questions of finance involved in this phasing out. Also, new vehicles have to be manufactured,” he said.

The tribunal on Tuesday ordered the West Bengal government to phase out all vehicles — both private and commercial — that are over 15 years within six months. The tribunal’s eastern zone bench said the state also has to phase out all public transport vehicles that are below BS IV emission norms within that timeframe.

“A huge number of private and commercial vehicles older than 15 years are plying in the cities of Kolkata and Howrah and also in other places in the State of West Bengal which amounts to few lakhs... It is, therefore, directed that all the old commercial and private vehicles... be phased out in the next six months,” the order read.

There are over 92 lakh vehicles in the state — private and commercial combined — that are 15 years old or more, the ministry of road transport and highways had informed the tribunal through an affidavit in July 2019. The city and the state need to have a fleet renewal policy along with a strategy to handle the scrap that will be generated in replacing these vehicles, an air quality management expert, who has followed a similar fleet renewal being executed in Delhi, said on Wednesday.

The scrap that will be created when the vehicles are phased out can harm the environment severely if not managed well, she said.

Anumita Roy Chowdhury, the executive director of New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) that the government should first identify and prioritise vehicles that have become completely unfit to run on roads. 

“All commercial vehicles have to undergo an annual roadworthiness and fitness test. This will help the government identify vehicles that are unfit to ply. The government should prioritise the phasing out of such end-of-the-life vehicles,” she said.

The prioritisation is necessary because the task at hand is mammoth.The government should also have a policy on how to deal with scrap that will be generated. If there is no strategy, then the waste will end up in dumping grounds, she said. 

The government should also see that the vehicles discarded here are taken to other places and used there. “Fleet replacement strategy must not shift pollu-tion from old vehicles to regions in the airshed,” said Roy Chowdhury.

Last updated on 28.07.22, 06:32 AM
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