The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday gave the central and state governments two weeks to submit “reasoned and scientifically supported views” on a range of issues including a congestion tax and a cap on the number of vehicles allowed to run in Delhi.
The tribunal kept in abeyance its order banning diesel-run vehicles older than 10 years in the NCR until then.
Truckers’ body All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) postponed until May 1 — the next date of hearing — its planned strike to protest the tribunal’s order.
Representatives of the AIMTC met Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on Monday.
Gadkari told a delegation of transporters that the Centre would approach the Supreme Court to seek more time to address the problem. A comprehensive policy would be drawn up in six months, Gadkari told them.
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“We will file an affidavit in the Supreme Court in a day or two seeking more time, as the two weeks’ time given by NGT is grossly insufficient. We respect the sentiments of the NGT to control pollution, but this issue needs a comprehensive policy and we will seek more time to address it,” Gadkari said.
The policy would be prepared in six months, and implemented in a time-bound manner, the minister told the truckers.
He added that the government will also explore the possibility of promoting bio-fuel and fitting equipment in vehicles to minimise pollution. “The government may also take the step of framing a new law in Parliament,” Gadkari said, adding that the Centre will appeal to the Delhi government to cooperate in the matter.
AIMTC’s Bhim Wadhwa said, “The strike has been called off until May 1. Until then, commercial vehicles will continue operations as usual,” he said. The association, which claims to represent over 50 lakh truckers, had threatened to stop all operations in the NCR from midnight on Monday.
The Delhi government on Monday submitted to the NGT that the prohibitory orders passed by the tribunal were causing “serious concern and practical difficulties”. Essential services including food supply to Delhi and garbage collection were being affected by the order, the government said.
The tribunal accepted that the “larger public interest” must not be “adversely affected due to impounding of diesel vehicles of more than 10 years old”, and said that vehicles would not be impounded for “two weeks”.
But it pulled up the Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments, as well as the Centre, for failing to “submit their suggestions on data furnished for preventing and controlling air pollution” along with suggestions on “restoring ambient air quality”.
On April 7, the NGT passed stringent directions to control air pollution in Delhi, including putting curbs on builders and transporters. The tribunal stressed several points highlighted in The Indian Express’s Death by Breath series of reports.
The tribunal on Monday asked the union ministries of Surface Transport, Environment and Forests, Petroleum, and Urban Development, and the government of Delhi and other authorities for views on the permissible age of vehicles in Delhi, their fuel, and the number of vehicles that should be allowed to be registered in NCR.
It also asked for their suggestions on “incentives” for those pooling vehicles, possible “benefits or concession” for transferring or scrapping vehicles that are banned in Delhi, and on providing “public transport vehicles” on high priority at places with high commercial or industrial activity.
The tribunal also asked for the rationalisation of parking charges to encourage people to use parking facilities, and not park their vehicles on roads, which leads to traffic congestion and increased pollution.
The NGT asked for the governments’ views on the imposition on “higher registration” and “congestion charges” for individuals or families with more than one vehicle, along with research “conducted to find out suitable converters for emissions from vehicles and beneficial use of energy for running cars”.
It sought details of steps being taken to ensure that emissions at major power plants such as the “Indraprastha, Bhadra and Raj Ghat, Thermal Power Project” were within norms.