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Extending deadlines

In a positive move on Thursday, the Supreme Court extended the ban on registration of diesel cars with engine capacity over 2000 cc in the national capital region. The apex court also said that it may impose a one-time cess on the purchase of such vehicles to handle Delhi's massive air pollution problem. It also extended by a month the March 31 deadline for diesel vehicles to switch to CNG in the region. During Thursday’s proceedings, the court said that while the ban on the sale and registration of all diesel vehicles would continue till April 31, the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) would work out a detailed compensation for all the polluting vehicles in the city. 

EPCA had suggested 30-35 percent of the vehicles’ cost as compensation. However, the court asked the EPCA to prepare a detailed plan for all kinds of private as well as public vehicles. The apex court also extended the deadline converting all diesel-run taxis into CNG in the national capital by a month. To put the recent extension into context, in an unprecedented move late last year, the apex court had banned the registration of all diesel SUVs and luxury cars with engine capacity of 2000 cc or more in the entire National Capital Region till March 31, 2016. The decision of banning diesel vehicles above 2,000cc engine capacity has mainly affected luxury carmakers. In its order, the apex court also ordered that those trucks not bound for Delhi will not be allowed to enter the national capital through National Highways 1 and 8. However, those carrying goods for Delhi will have to pay a steep environment compensation charge (ECC). The amount payable by big trucks will be Rs 2,6000 and Rs 1,400 for light commercial vehicles, which is almost double the amount the court had set in October.

 The apex court order had followed the National Green Tribunal decision to stall the registration of new diesel vehicles in the national capital. In addition, the NGT had also directed central and state government departments not to purchase any diesel vehicles. Studies have shown that diesel-operated vehicles contribute a significant share to air pollution in Delhi. Most of these vehicles do not adhere to the vehicular emission standards. In fact, a majority of these vehicles run on a mixture of kerosene and diesel to save money. Studies have suggested that the amount of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) in Delhi’s air rises late at night with the corresponding flow of diesel-run trucks. 

        The effects of RSPM, quite naturally, carry on into the early morning.  Over 23 percent of the cars on Delhi roads run on diesel which produces much more carcinogenic nitrogen oxide than petrol cars. Delhi’s air has become extremely toxic with smog shrouding the city’s air throughout the day. 

Particulate matter levels have also soared to often ten times the prescribed limits. Emissions from vehicles, especially those that run on diesel, have proved to be one of the major contributors to rising air pollution levels. The court order seems to have understood that putting a premium on using roads is the only way to solve the problem of vehicular pollution. However, one is not sure whether the state has the institutional capacity to implement its proposal. The lack of adequate public transport to handle extra demand, an understaffed traffic police force to check violations and the counterfeiting of extra number plates are just some of the implementation issues that could arise. it is clarified that it is the responsibility of the Delhi Police to implement the proposal. It has been well documented that the national capital suffers from a desperate shortage of police and traffic personnel. 

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