Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Task force to intensify steps against air pollution

Task force to intensify steps against air pollution

M. Raghuram

It comprises officials from 10 departments and members of NGOs

— Photo: K. Murali Kumar

HAZARD ZONE: Hudson Circle area in Bangalore has a high level of air pollution.

BANGALORE: With the steady increase in vehicular traffic in Bangalore city, a multi-department task force constituted in 2001 for the control of air pollution is all set to intensify its drive. The task force was set up with top officials from 10 departments and members of some non-government organisations (NGOs).

In 2003, the Supreme Court had noted the alarming levels of pollution in seven cities in the country, including Bangalore. It was hearing Writ Petition No 13029/85 (Civil Public Interest Litigation) in M.C. Mehta Vs Union of India and others. Bangalore’s Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM) was high, the court noted. It had directed the Government to bring it down to the minimum.

For the last four years the task force has been on the job of reducing the levels in accordance with a 14-point action plan, also called Air Quality Improvement Action Plan. The action plan had involved five departments — Transport, Food and Civil Supplies, Home, Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation and Karnataka Sate Pollution Control Board (KSPCB).

One of the main components of the action plan was the conversion of three-wheelers registered after 1991 to bi-fuel mode, petrol and LPG, with authorised LPG kits and fixed LPG tanks. The second component was mandatory registration of three-wheelers having bi-fuel mode starting from 2003, and the final component was to take action for conversion of nearly 35,000 autorickshaws, running on unspecified and unauthorised LPG kits and detachable cylinders.

Transport Department sources said that since the last four years 61,869 autorickshaws, out of the 72,400, have been fitted with authorised LPG kits. Steps were also taken to phase out 4,000 autorickshaws registered before April 1991; 6,000 autorickshaws will be converted to LPG in three months.

The Transport Department has registered 25,595 autorickshaws till July 31, 2007, and all of them have LPG kits with fixed tanks. It is difficult, however, to establish that ambient air quality in Bangalore has improved as the old generation two-stroke two-wheelers are still plying in large numbers.
Action taken

The Food and Civil Supplies Department discovered that white kerosene was extensively used in autorickshaws, along with petrol, for combustion, and in some heavy vehicles, kerosene was used with High Speed Diesel (HSD) to bring down the per kilometre running cost. Under the recommendations of the task force, the Government increased the Value Added Tax on white kerosene to narrow the gap with HSD. The prevailing price, according to department sources, of kerosene and HSD are Rs. 37.83 and 37.51 a litre, respectively. The department feels that there is no incentive for adulteration anymore.

Regular inspection

The various departments have also taken steps, collectively and individually, to control air pollution in the city. Regular inspection of quality of petrol sold in the city and the State is being done.


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