The National Green Tribunal wants incentives for those who would let go of their diesel vehicles more than 10 years of age, a move that may smoothen the phasing out of old and polluting vehicles in Delhi.
Suspending its April 7 ban for two weeks, the NGT on Monday asked the Delhi government and central ministries to submit within two weeks suggestions on benefits that can be provided to those selling or scrapping vehicles prohibited to run in Delhi-NCR.
While truckers threatened (and later withdrew) a strike, there has been resentment among diesel car owners with some of them saying the ban infringes upon their right to ownership. "We welcome the move. We have always been all for improving Delhi's air quality," said Ramesh Mehta, a businessman in Rohini.
The NGT has asked the ministries of surface transport, environment, urban development, petroleum, and the Delhi government, besides other authorities to submit 'scientifically-supported' views by May 1 when the matter would be heard next.
"It should be kept in mind that these are likely to be shifted to places of lesser density of vehicles and lesser pollution," NGT said, in an oblique reference to criticism that the ban will only shift the problem.
The issues on which the NGT wants suggestions include the cut-off age of vehicles to be permitted, a cap on the number of vehicles to be registered in Delhi-NCR, besides incentives for car pooling. NGT also wants higher registration and congestion charges for those owning more than one vehicle.
The NGT said public transport must be provided on priority at all places with high commercial activities, markets or industrial areas. "At places where surface or multi-level parking is available, rationalisation of parking charges is needed to encourage people to use them and not to park on main roads," the tribunal said.
The government must take steps to check air pollution from Indraprastha, Badarpur and Rajghat and other power plants, the tribunal said.
Noting that diesel was the main source of air pollution in Delhi, NGT had said on April 7, "Diesel fumes damage the lungs and brain and even cause cancer. The situation is so alarming that doctors are advising people to leave Delhi."
Delhi has around 1,18,773 registered private vehicles and 34,659 commercial vehicles older than 10 years that run on diesel, government sources said.
The biggest problem, according to the agencies, in executing the ban is a severe lack of manpower to carry out the checks and of space for the impounded vehicles. There's also the certainty of mile-long jams, which would add to the pollution in border areas.
Lawyers for the Delhi government on Monday appealed to NGT for more time, saying essential services such as garbage collection by mostly older trucks have gone haywire. Zubeida Begum, Delhi government's standing counsel, said, "Transportation of eatables to the capital has been hit hard, so has the garbage collection."