Six days after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) barred diesel vehicles over 10 years old, including commercial trucks, from plying on the roads of Delhi, the state government is facing a strange problem.
It has already seized 500 trucks while enforcing the ban, and the only place to park them till legal proceedings are complete — a three-acre compound in north Delhi — is fast running out of space.
One of the six commissioners appointed by NGT to monitor the process, who did not wish to be named, said, “We saw that the impounded trucks had to be taken all the way to Burari in north Delhi. We were told this is the only space available to park impounded trucks. Local police told us the place was filling up, and there was no space for more vehicles.”
Commissioner Amit Verma, who is also conducting inspections, said that government officers might soon have to stop impounding trucks. “What is the point of making trucks wait and asking them for papers, only to tell them they can go because impounding pits are full?” Verma said.
Another local commissioner monitoring the process said, “We will have to see what happens this week. Police officials say they are being forced to park vehicles in local police stations because there is no other place to keep impounded vehicles.”
When contacted, Delhi’s Transport Minister Gopal Rai said that the government was trying to “resolve” the situation.
“The department and the traffic police have been especially vigilant. The issue of lack of space came up in meetings with transport officials and we are trying to resolve it. There is so much backlog of work from the previous governments that we cannot complete all pending work overnight. The PWD will be taking up this work,” Rai said.
The impounding unit, situated alongside the transport department’s vehicle inspection unit on the outer ring road, was opened in 2001 and can accommodate up to 900 small and medium-sized vehicles.
But, since a majority of vehicles impounded in the last week have been trucks, the space has been filled with 450-500 vehicles, sources said.
Special Commissioner of Police, Traffic, Muktesh Chander said the traffic police had written to the NGT about the problem. “I can keep impounding trucks, but where is the space to keep them? We have made a list of issues and limitations, including the space crunch and the need for more staff in inspection teams, and submitted it to the NGT,” Chander said.
He added that big containers usually found on trucks occupy a lot of space. “But the traffic police will comply with the NGT orders on controlling vehicular pollution,” he said.
While the traffic police have smaller pits in every district, where vehicles they impound are temporarily parked, officials said trucks are “usually” taken to Burari.
Members of truckers’ associations said they had spoken to the Delhi government about the problem, and would take up the matter with the NGT if required. “Trucks from UP, Faridabad and Kundli borders are taken all the way to Burari, 40-50 km away. It is a waste of fuel. Else, if they are parked in local police stations, truck drivers and owners are harassed. I agree that we should comply with environmental norms but this is no way to do it,” Bhim Wadhwa, president of the All India Motor Transport Congress, said.
Ever since the NGT asked the Delhi government to check air pollution, especially caused by trucks entering Delhi from other states, the transport department and police officials have been keeping an eye out mainly for three things: whether a truck is overloaded, whether it is evidently causing pollution and whether its papers are in order.
The NGT’s orders came close on the heels of an investigative series by The Indian Express on how Delhi’s air turned toxic over the last seven years.
On Sunday, when The Indian Express visited the inspection unit, most of the space was occupied by trucks. A few impounded autos had to be parked near the gate outside the “pit area”.
Local officials said they were hoping “at least two-three trucks” would be released in the next few days to make space. “Usually we get about 20-30 trucks in a day, but in the last three days, we got almost 100-150 every day. If more trucks keep coming, we will have to ask the government what to do,” an official at the site said.