Delhi’s Pollution Under Control (PUC) system is seriously flawed a report from the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority, said.
There are lakhs of vehicles on Delhi roads that may be flouting emission norms but there is no effective way of checking it. “A large number of vehicles in Delhi remain outside the PUC testing network,” the EPCA report said noting that the compliance rate was 23.2 %.
Delhi had a vehicular fleet of 6.47 million vehicles as on August 1, 2016. Taking into account the frequency of tests required for different categories of vehicles the number of tests in a quarter should be at least 5.91 million, the report says. But for the three month period (November 2016, December 2016 and January 2017) the number of PUC tests conducted was 1.37 million.
On April 1, the country migrated to stricter emission standards called BS IV norms that prescribe emission standards for new vehicles. However, on the ground what matters is how polluting the vehicles on the road are, including those that were manufactured under older emission regimes.
Pollution Under Control certificates are mandatory and ensure that vehicles meet the stipulated emission standards when in use. Not having a valid PUC certificate invites penalties under the Motor Vehicles Act. It is R. 1000 for the first offence and R.2000 for every violation after that.
Delhi has around 1000 computerised pollution checking centres where PUCs are issued. The EPCA study was carried out with the aim of checking if the PUC system actually works and provides “credible, authentic and reliable tests” that can identify grossly polluting vehicles.
Even for vehicles that do undergo PUC tests it is doubtful the system captures the extent of non-compliance. Failure rates are very low for all categories of vehicles. The body also highlighted “rampant cheating and malpractices” in the system, citing the use of fake software and problems with the testing process. There is a likelihood that failures are underreported since vehicle owners can refuse to pay the fee for the test is their vehicle fails, so the result is not registered in the system.
Earlier this year, 5 PUC centres in Gurgaon were sealed for issuing certificates over social messaging platform, Whatsapp without even testing the vehicles.
“Unless this programme is fully re-engineered this can deteriorate into uselessness,” the EPCA report said.
A poorly managed vehicular pollution monitoring and control program will be a hurdle in tackling the air pollution problem in Delhi NCR. Though there is disagreement about the exact contribution of vehicles to the air pollution problem, all studies list vehicular emissions as a major contributor to particulate matter pollution.
The government has touted the migration from Bharat Stage III (BS) emission standards to BS IV as a major step towards tackling the problem but when environmentalists said that BS III vehicles not be allowed to be sold or registered after the deadline for implementing BS IV standards, the centre sided with the automakers in a Supreme Court case. The apex court, however, ruled that BS III vehicles would not be sold or registered after April 1.
The central government is also in a tangle with the National Green Tribunal over the banning of diesel vehicles older than 10 years in Delhi NCR. The 2014 NGT order is being challenged in the Supreme Court by the centre.
Diesel vehicles are not a major contributor to pollution and banning these will hit the economically weaker sections, the central government has argued. This week the heavy industries ministry objected to the NGT directive saying that the power to decide the age of vehicles and declaring them unfit to ply on roads was an executive decision.