Pressure mounts on transport dept to curb emissions

Pressure mounts on transport dept to curb emissions

According to a source, there is a proposal to restart the scheme to phase out two-stroke auto-rickshaws by providing subsidy to the owners who scrap their vehicles. File photo

Days after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed the state government to come up with an action plan to check air pollution in cities, the transport department is set to tighten the screws on emission testing, and restart initiatives aimed at banning polluting vehicles.

Senior officials said vehicular pollution has been discussed at length at the government level. “Both the task force on air pollution and the recently formed Air Quality Monitoring Committee, have been told to monitor work on pollution-related issues in each department,” an official said.

Vehicular pollution contributes to 60% of the total air pollution, and over 80% of CO2 pollution in Bengaluru. Commissioner for Transport and Safety, who is part of both the task force as well as the new committee, has been making several proposals in this regard.

“Besides banning 46 lakh vehicles older than 15 years, a proposal has been made to restart the scheme to phase out two-stroke auto-rickshaws by providing subsidy to the owners who scrap their vehicles,” a source in the department said.

At the same time, the department has been working to check the menace of fake emission test certificates, and to update existing emission test standards. Last year, the department fined 77 test centres, including 12 in Bengaluru, for defective testing.

“A tender for setting up a monitoring station has been cancelled. But, we are looking forward to integrate the monitoring mechanism with the existing government infrastructure. This also involves using security paper to print emission test certificates, in addition to the present system where holograms are used as proof of authenticity,” the source said.

The Air Quality Monitoring Committee, which was set up following an NGT directive in October, has been told to come up with action plans to check air pollution levels caused by vehicles, construction and industries, among others. Once finalised, the plans should bring down pollution levels to the prescribed limits within six months.

According to sources, the transport department’s proposals would need budgetary allocations. The 2017-18 budget allocation to provide Rs 30,000 subsidy to owners or drivers to scrap two-stroke auto-rickshaws lapsed as the scheme didn’t take off.

“I would have got about Rs 65,000 by selling my auto-rickshaw in Ramnagar. But, arranging Rs 2 lakh for a new one was simply not practical. The government wants us to scrap the vehicle for a mere Rs 30,000. Who will give the remaining money?” asked Ravi Kumar G, who said driving the auto-rickshaw was his only source of income.

Meanwhile, officials said they have discussed the idea of increasing the subsidy.

“The finance department had previously rejected our proposal to hike the subsidy to Rs 35,000. One way or the other, these vehicles must go if we want cleaner air,” an official said.