Rusty cars head for scrapheap

Delhi is busy exploring the possibility of setting up scrapyards for vehicles past their supposed prime.

A death knell for old cars and two-wheelers was sounded by the city transport department early this month in a notice: “(It) shall not issue/renew registration of the non- transport (private) vehicle or fitness certificate to any such vehicle which is more than 15 years old.”

It is all being done to implement the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order to take all vehicles older than 15 years off the streets of the capital. 

“It is undisputed and in fact unquestionable that air pollution of NCT, Delhi, is getting worse with each passing day,” the tribunal had ruled in a judgement on November 26 while banning older vehicles.

The decision to ban is among 14 measures ordered by the green court to immediately address the worsening state of Delhi’s air, which one prominent study this year found to be the world’s dirtiest.

The ruling hits up to a third of the estimated 82 lakh vehicles in registered in Delhi. The figure includes commercial vehicles like autorickshaws and trucks, but most of them are private cars and two-wheelers. Commercial vehicles above 15 years are, in any case, banned.

“All aged vehicles will be seized as per the Motor Vehicles (MV) Act. But the implementation will take some time,” a senior transport official says, adding that they are having ‘marathon’ meetings to discuss modalities of phasing out vehicles which have outlived their life.

The NGT will next hear the case on January 9, by when all concerned authorities – transport and traffic police department included – have to submit compliance reports.

Implementing the order requires junking old vehicles. But the city has no ‘authorised’ scrapyard to get rid of old, unwanted vehicles.

“In order to deal with the aged vehicles, the city requires places for scrappage and dismantling. So we are exploring the possibilities of setting up scrapyards,” the official says.   

He adds that as an interim measure the traffic police may tow away the aged vehicles to the traffic pits which store vehicles that have been impounded under a specific law.

But neither the transport department nor the traffic police confirm whether they are planning to start a special drive to impound old vehicles.

“We will comply unless there order are changed. This ban will be implemented in much the same way as that of e-rickshaws,” a senior traffic police official says. Earlier, the Delhi High Court had banned e-rickshaws from plying in the national capital.  

While hearing environment activist Vardhaman Kaushik’s petition against the high pollution levels in Delhi, the NGT had suggested that moving of aged vehicles outside the national capital region can be considered, a lawyer present in the previous hearing says.

But environmentalists say that such a step could prove counterproductive.Anumita Roy Chowdhury, head of Centre for Science and Environment's clean air campaign, suggests that the onus should be on the manufacturers to create a system for safe scrappage and recycling.

The European Union, for example, requires manufacturers and importers to set up scrapyards to take back, “depollute,” and recycle used vehicles under its ELV (end of life vehicles) directives – that establishes rules and creates incentives so that manufacturers design cars with recycling in mind.

 Chowdhury argues that a combination of strategies is required to curtail vehicular emission which cause close to three-quarter of Delhi’s air pollution. “This would require a taxation policy whereby higher taxes are imposed on older vehicles,” she says. 

Emission checks

“The priority should be to first enforce the existing emission standards. Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificates should be given after due diligence,” says K K Kapila, chairperson of International Road Federation, while stressing on the need to enforce other short-term measures to address the alarming level of air pollution in the city.

Even though the city has over 82 lakh registered vehicles – most of which need to undergo an emission check every three months – the number of challans issued for violating norms remain dismally low.

Some 25,000 challans have been issued to violators in the past three months, a senior transport official says, adding that the ‘voluntary’ compliance in private vehicles is less than 30 per cent.

Staff shortage

Hamstrung by severe staff shortage, the government had decided to make PUC certificate mandatory for refuelling of vehicles. 

The move is likely to be implemented by March 2015. Studies suggest that it is not just about putting  curbs on older vehicles or vehicular emissions.

According to a recent study IIT-Delhi, the city wastes about 2.5 lakh litres of fuel every day while crawling in traffic jams. The research team defined idling to be the time spent by the vehicle running at less than 4 kmph speed.

Of the total travel time of vehicles, idling time for cars was found to be 24 per cent, three-wheelers 18 per cent, buses 37 per cent and two-wheelers 20 per cent.

The study, published in the Elsevier journal, Travel Behaviour and Society, used GPS logs of buses as well as speed and fuel consumption readings of two-wheelers and cars to arrive at these findings.

The research also reveals that around 68 per cent of the vehicles on the city roads are less than five years old while only two per cent are more than 15 years old. The average age of most of the vehicles is between 4.4 to 4.7 years, the study says.

 Almost 17% of trucks and 15% of tempos were in the 10-15 year bracket which means they may soon be added to the over 15-year-old vehicle group. About 14.2 per cent of the petrol or CNG vehicles were also found to be more than 10 years old. 

Upset owners

Polluting vehicles, many owners say, can be of any age, not necessarily above 15 years old.

Vivek Singh, 32, a Lajpat Nagar resident says, “The government should ban vehicle engines based on their level of pollution and not their age. Have they really thought about what to do with the lakhs of old vehicles?” Singh owns a 1996 500cc Royal Enfield. 

If the order is implemented, any vehicle bought before 1999 will not be allowed to ply or park in the city. This has upset some proud owners of Enfield Bullets, Fiats and Maruti 800s.

“I spent my younger years driving Maruti 800. In fact, it was the very first car I bought,” a Mayur Vihar resident, G Kalyanasundaram, 54, says. 

“So I never allowed my daughter to drive. I always feared that she will run the car into a ditch or something.”

Kalyanasundaram’s neighbour R K Gupta is also emotional about his 15-year-old Maruti 800. “Will they compensate me for my car? It is in a great shape and even has a PUC certificate,” he says.

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