Experts and environmentalists welcomed the Aam Aadmi Party’s budget proposal of imposing congestion tax on goods vehicles entering the capital.
Centre for Science and Environment executive director Anumita Roychowdhury, who also heads its air pollution control campaign, hailed it as a timely move. She said the budget acknowledged that alarming levels of air pollution is a cause of concern and trucks contribute hugely to pollution.
“This fund will be used to augment environment-friendly public transport system, and install weigh-in-motion bridges to discourage overloading of trucks that cause more pollution. While this is a step forward to apply the ‘polluter pays’ principle, the full potential of this measure can be realised only when this tax is extended to all cars that cause congestion in the city,” she said.
Gufran Beig, project director, System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, told HT, “A recent study also revealed that air quality at night in Delhi is as bad as it during the day, and the scores of trucks that enter the city in the afterhours are the primary reasons for it.”
He pointed out that diesel vehicles emit large amount of pollutants such as Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 and NO2, apart from PM10 and CO.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT), earlier in April, had banned all diesel vehicles over ten years old from plying on Delhi roads. A bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar had passed the order and it noted that countries such as Denmark, Brazil, China and Sri Lanka are in the process of banning diesel vehicles. However, the ban has been stayed and the matter will come up for final hearing in July.
Truckers, however, say the impact of the congestion tax will have to be faced by the consumers who will pay more for the necessities that come in from other states into the capital.
“Every day over 10,000 goods vehicles enter the city from all sides and get all the basic necessities for Delhiites. If we have to pay extra, where will the money come from? The consumers will have to bear the burden,” Ashish Maitreya, a Ghaziabad-based transporter, said.
All India Motor Transport Congress president Bhim Wadhwa also agreed. “Prices of essential goods will go up because of this move,” Wadhwa said.
Experts also said the budget should also discontinue the practice of one-time parking charges and introduce high and variable rates for parking across the city to discourage car use and increase revenues from parking.
“Vehicles use up huge amounts of land for parking. If this is not done, congestion will be inevitable and so will be its resultant pollution, oil guzzling and a poor quality of city life,” said Roychowdhury.