The National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) eastern branch has ordered the West Bengal government to scrap all 15+ year-old vehicles including private cars in the state within 6 months. The rationale beind the NGT’s order is to improve air quality levels, particularly in Kolkata and Howrah. What this essentially means is, the Government of West Bengal needs to stop 15+ year-old vehicles from plying on the roads of the state within the next six months. Thousands of private cars will be affected by this order.
The NGT bench of Justice B. Amit Sthalekar and expert member Saibal Dasgupta, made the following observations,
Although the affidavit of the state government indicates some actions, a concerted effort by the state government is lacking. A huge number of private and commercial vehicles older than 15 years are plying in the cities of Kolkata and Howrah. It is, therefore, directed that all the old commercial and private vehicles in the state of West Bengal, including the cities of Kolkata and Howrah, be phased out in the next six months. The state government must ensure that the public transport vehicles below BS-IV are phased out in the next six months, so that only BS-VI vehicles ply in the state of West Bengal, including the cities of Kolkata and Howrah, after six months. Action Plan needs to be implemented with immediate effect. It is accordingly directed to carry out the implementation of the Action Plan to combat the sources of pollution and thereby remediate the situation within a period of three months.
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The state transport minister Firhad Hakim has expressed concerns over implementing this order as he feels that 6 months is too short a time for this massive exercise,
We have already started phasing out 15-year-old vehicles, introducing CNG-run vehicles and are planning to deploy electric buses in a major way; but it’s almost impossible to phase out lakhs of vehicles within such a short time. We will ask for more time from the bench.
Poor air quality is a big environmental concern in multiple Indian cities. The NGT got into action to combat this first in the Delhi-NCR region. Th NGT’s orders to phase out old vehicles has now begun reaching other cities of India including the metropolitan city of Kolkata. In the coming years, expect more such from the NGT in other major Indian cities that continue to grapple with poor air quality.
One fall out of the NGT order in the Delhi-NCR is that older vehicles – especially diesel engined cars that are close to 10 years of age – are now being transported to other cities of India, especially down south. These vehicles – particularly the Toyota Innova and Fortuner – are sold to people in Southern parts of India where there is no NGT order restraining older vehicles. Most of these vehicles have a good 5-10 years of active service life, which is a reason why many buyers down south are willing to buy them at rock-bottom prices, and continue operating them for many years.
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