EPCA's move to ban private vehicles in Delhi not logical, it's a Tughlaqi decision, says ex-pollution control board scientist

As the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) decided to ban plying of all private vehicles to control further deterioration of air quality in the National Capital, Delhi government said that it has not been consulted by the Supreme Court-mandated body about any such decision.

“We have received no such communication about any decision by the EPCA to ban plying of private vehicles in Delhi," said Naginder Sharma, who is the media advisor to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal when asked about the government’s reaction on the latest development.

Dr Bhure Lal, the chairman of the EPCA, on Tuesday told the media that the body is contemplating over the decision to ban plying of private vehicles in Delhi. ANI quoted him as saying, "Let us hope the air pollution situation in Delhi doesn't deteriorate or else we will have to stop plying of private vehicles. Only public transport will be used."

The EPCA, in a press statement issued on Wednesday, further confirmed it’s stand and said that the measure to reduce pollution would be implemented whenever there is urgent requirement to control air pollution.

“The EPCA will continue to monitor the situation very closely and see what further steps are required to be taken. It will direct these steps in consultation with the Central Pollution Control Board Task Force and state governments, including steps on reduction or ban on use of private vehicles and restraints on trucks entering Delhi,” the release said.

The decision to ban plying of private vehicles has received quite a backlash from the citizens of Delhi as it is bound to create major commuting crisis in the city. Ashutosh Dixit, secretary general of URJA, a Residents Welfare Associations in Delhi, called the decisions rubbish. “Before making this statement about it’s decision EPCA should have consulted with the Delhi government or the Lieutenant Governor to check whether the idea is implementable at all,” he said.

Residents protest against increasing levels of pollution in New Delhi. PTI

Residents protest against increasing levels of pollution in New Delhi. PTI

He also said that if the problem of pollution in Delhi has grown to an alarming extent then the EPCA could have decided to shutdown the city for few days and that would have been acceptable and also implementable. "Has the EPCA even consulted with the Delhi police whether it is ready to shoulder the herculean task of banning plying of such a huge number of vehicles," he said.

Can EPCA issue orders without consulting Delhi government or the LG?

The EPCA's sudden decision to ban private vehicles without consulting the state government and the LG’s office has caused fear that it might lead to a legal spat between the agencies.

"The EPCA was formed by a Supreme Court order in the year 1998. One of its major functions is implementation of the Graded Response Action Plan. But banning of plying of private vehicles is not mandated by the plan. I do not see any logic behind the decision,” said Mahender Pandey, former scientist with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

He also said that that banning plying of private vehicles is not within the powers and functions of the EPCA. The Ministry Of Environment and Forests notification forming the EPCA clearly mentioned the powers and functions of the body to control vehicular pollution.

It said, “The Authority shall, for controlling vehicular pollution, take all necessary steps to ensure compliance of specified emission standards by vehicles including proper calibration of the equipment for testing vehicular pollution, ensuring compliance of fuel quality standards, monitoring and coordinating action for traffic planning and management.”

Mahender Pandey says that the Supreme Court empowered it with further powers to implement 'Odd Even’ traffic management system as an emergency measure to control pollution.

“But nowhere it has been empowered to ban plying of private vehicles,” he adds.

Graded Response Action Plan is a list of legal provisions which empower the EPCA to take emergency measures to control pollution. The plan does not entrust the EPCA to ban plying of private vehicles

Naming the decsion to ban plying of private vehicles a Tughlaqi move he asked, “It has been observed many times by the EPCA that stubble burning in the neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana is one of the major contributors to Delhi’s pollution. But when it comes to taking pollution control measures the EPCA pounces upon the vehicles in Delhi. How does it even makes sense?”

The EPCA in it’s press statement said that as per a recent survey by the central government vehicles in Delhi contribute 40 percent of the capital city’s pollution. The capital city’s air quality was 358 on Wednesday which falls in the category of ‘Very Poor’.

What are the options for commuters?

According to records, 32 lakh people travel by bus everyday and another 26 lakhs by Metro in Delhi. According to a source in the Delhi Transport Department, another 32 lakh travel only by bikes everyday. “Banning private vehicles would mean adding another tide of commuters to the existing transport system which would only lead to collapse of it,” the source told Firstpost.

At present there are 4,000 city buses plying in Delhi whereas, the requirement is around of 11,000 buses. The Delhi government is in the process of purchasing 1,000 more city buses to to fill in the gap. “The order to purchase 1,000 buses was stuck in a litigation for the last one year. But now the Supreme Court of India and the Delhi High Court has cleared it and we have placed the order,” said Sharma.

Dixit said that as of now there is not enough bus services in Delhi to meet the demand of the commuters. “There is still no high speed bus from Gurgaon Plaza to Delhi and Noida Plaza to Delhi. How the EPCA plans to implement this ban without supporting transport infrastriucture is a question,” he said.

He also said that many areas in the city still do not have enough feeder buses to carry passenger to the metro station. “If private vehicles are banned, what mode of transport would people depend on," asked Dixit.

 

 


Updated Date: Nov 01, 2018 16:21 PM

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