THE Pedestrians First has urged PMPML, the city’s transport undertaking, to take into consideration the pollution aspect while deciding to purchase diesel buses. “PMPML is apparently proposing purchase of 800 diesel buses whereas the earlier policy was to buy CNG buses. Accordingly, several CNG buses have already been purchased and CNG supply and filling stations also set up,” said Prashant Inamdar, convenor of Pedestrians First, in a letter to PMPML chairman and managing director Tukaram Mundhe. A copy has also been marked to PMC Commissioner Kunal Kumar, PCMC Commissioner Shravan Hardikar and mayors of both Pune city and Pimpri-Chinchwad. Inamdar said diesel vehicles contribute majorly to the pollution levels in the city. “Moreover, ultrafine particle emissions from diesel engines go directly to the blood stream and cause irreparable damage to health. The diesel engine exhaust is also carcinogenic and has strong link with lung cancer. Hence there has been a general trend of switching over to the cleaner fuel CNG to reduce pollution,” he said.
Inamdar said the Supreme Court has put severe restrictions on the use of diesel vehicles in New Delhi due to very high pollution levels. “We also understand that a case is pending before the National Green Tribunal, Southern Zone against purchase of diesel buses by BMTC for Bengaluru city transport,” he added. Civic activists said Pune was also facing severe pollution problem, which is worsening by the day and calls for strict anti-pollution measures. “It is also possible that the restrictions imposed in Delhi on diesel vehicles would be extended over a period of time to other major cities, including Pune. PMPML buses travel all over the city on arterial roads and even smaller lanes. Thus diesel buses have a major contribution to the pollution level in the city. In the circumstances when reducing pollution needs to be given top priority, PMPML’s proposal to purchase 800 diesel buses looks to be a retrograde step,” the Pedestrians First said.
Inamdar said the justification given for purchase of diesel buses is that of lower costs than CNG. “We appreciate that cost has to be a major criterion for any purchase decision. However, in the present case of bus purchase there has to be more focus on the pollution aspect. Each bus will be on road for minimum ten years or more. The fact also cannot be denied that PMPML buses are not well maintained resulting in increasing pollution with advancing age of the bus, which will further aggravate the matter in case of diesel buses,” he said.
The Pedestrian First said when the issue is of pollution and public health, cost should not be the only criterion and long term impacts on city pollution over the life time of the bus should be given far more weightage.
PMPML has decided to appoint a committee to study the matter and take decision regarding whether CNG or diesel buses should be purchased. “Only after the committee report comes in, we will give our recommendations whether to purchase CNG or diesel buses though we are in favour of CNG buses as per the government policy to tackle pollution,” said BJP leader Sarang Kamtekar.
A PMPML spokesperson said no decision will be taken until and unless the expert committees gives its recommendations.