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The Maharashtra government has recently announced that they will issue one lakh fresh permits for auto-rickshaws in Mumbai Metropolitan Region, and increase the number of three-wheelers by 25 per cent in cities like Pune, Aurangabad, Solapur, Nagpur and Nashik.
Fresh permits for auto-rickshaws and taxis have not issued since 1997 due to rise in pollution levels. A look at the Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM), one of the indexes used to monitor pollution levels, in some of the cities is not within the permissible limits set by the Central Pollution Control Board.
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The air quality monitoring station in Navi Mumbai has recorded an average RSPM of 104.10 µg/m3 between October 2006 and December 2013. The pollution levels are slightly above the permissible limit of 100 µg/m3. At the same time in Pune, according to the Maharasthra pollution control board, the particulate matter is pegged at an average of 119.32 µg/m3 between 2005 and 2015 in residential areas.
The rest of the cities that are part of the Maharastra Transport Ministry’s plan fall within the permissible limits of RSPM, but show a very high concentration of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM).
The SPM levels in Aurangabad and Nasik are currently soaring at an average of 214.51 and 229.21 µg/m3 respectively as against the prescribed permissible limit of 140 µg/m3.
The current number of auto-rickshaws in Pune stand at 43,599, and an increase of 25 per cent would mean an addition of almost 11,000 three-wheelers to the city roads. Transport Minister Diwakar Raote said that the government has decided to increase the numbers keeping in mind the population growth. As the data above shows, pollution levels seem to have been ignored by the administration before taking the decision.
Permits to the new autos will be issued through a lottery system and only to Marathi-speaking drivers. The transport minister has also promised to come out with a similar policy on taxis very soon.