The green cess imposed on commercial vehicles entering Delhi has failed to act as a “deterrent”, the Supreme Court-appointed EPCA has found, pointing out “serious flaws” in the collection system under the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC). The SDMC was directed by the Supreme Court to switch to the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) system way back in 2016, but the civic body has failed to make the transition till date and continues to collect the cess in the form of cash through a concessionaire, the EPCA found.
The SDMC said that the Rs 120 crore project had hit a roadblock as a company, which was disqualified during the technical bid, had moved the High Court and subsequently the Supreme Court. “Now the technical bid part is over and two companies have made financial bids, which are being examined,” an SDMC spokesperson said.
The cess, known as the Environment Compensation Charge (ECC), was levied in October 2015 through orders of the SC to reduce commercial vehicle entry into Delhi in a bid to reduce air pollution. The EPCA report observed it “has found evidence that this collection is greatly flawed, and that the directions of the Supreme Court are in effect being flouted, and all efforts to mitigate pollution derailed”. It based its observations on two audits — one conducted by VAAN Infra Pvt Ltd and the other by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
The VAAN audit found that around 30,292 vehicles enter Delhi from 20 border points daily. The CSE count, which was essentially an independent verification and reconciliation of raw data submitted by VAAN, placed the number of vehicles at 44,811. Of the 30,292 commercial vehicles entering Delhi daily, 5,630 are those that are not-Delhi bound, in violation of an SC order, VAAN found. “Vehicles paying full ECC are a mere 23%. Vehicles that pay half ECC — in other words, are empty while entering Delhi — are 35%; Vehicles that are carrying exempt goods are another 42%,” stated the VAAN audit report.
The ECC for two axle trucks is Rs 700 (when empty) and Rs 1,400 when laden with goods. For three axle trucks, the rates are Rs 1,300 and Rs 1,400 respectively; and for two axle light commercial vehicles the rates are Rs 700 and Rs 1,400.
The EPCA, in its observation, said it is not clear why such a large number of vehicles — 10,000 of the roughly 30,000 that are entering Delhi daily — would be empty as the city is not a manufacturing hub or a major transit point for goods. Subsequently, it calculated that as against the current weekly average ECC collection of Rs 8.34 crore, the potential collection should be Rs 25.18 crore per week.
The EPCA recommended that there should be clear timelines for setting up RFID and the SDMC must be held accountable to the SC for any slippage in deadline. “No further delays must be accepted,” it emphasised.