Desperate move to cut Delhi's pollution

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) decision banning vehicles aged over 15 years in Delhi indicates the desperation that has crept into moves to somehow reduce the high-levels of pollution in the nation’s capital. Already tagged the world’s most-polluted city, the Delhi administration is either at its wit’s end on how to control pollution or it has all but given up trying.

The tribunal has stepped in and decided that the time has come for drastic action, resulting in the ban. While the ban may warm the cockles of the green lobby, the decision is bound to hurt thousands of people who depend on old, second-hand vehicles for their travel and businesses.

According to one estimate, close to 30 lakh vehicles may go off Delhi’s roads following the tribunal order. This is approximately one-third of the total number of vehicles registered in the capital as of June this year. Though the Delhi Metro has done a commendable job in connecting the various far-flung areas of Delhi, it cannot make up for the overnight retiring of 15-year-old vehicles. This is anticipated to leave daily users of these vehicles in a lurch and could affect the rhythm of day-to-day living and trade in the city. The other headache for Delhi transport and police officials is how to implement the order. The massive scale of old vehicles that need to be seized in case they ply on Delhi’s roads is expected to be a nightmare as there is no manpower for the task in addition to lack of storage space for seized vehicles. Already, the city is struggling to cope storing around 26,000 seized vehicles, of which some 20,000 have not been claimed by their owners for more than a year. In the case of vehicles older than 15 years, the number is 100 times more.  Obviously, not all of them will flout the order and many will make their way out of the city to other states, but still, others will try to take a chance, especially if the order is not implemented thoroughly.

The tribunal order, at the same time, cannot be dismissed as it reflects a serious crisis the capital finds itself in as far as pollution levels go. With the onset of winter, the effect of pollution is accentuated and can cause breathing problems and a host of other ailments to the beleaguered population. Besides vehicular pollution, industrial plants spew smoke as also others including brick kilns and trash burning.  It is time that a comprehensive view is taken of the pollution, responsibility fixed and an administrative remedy found.

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