Banned diesel autos chosen form of public transport in city, finds survey
More than four years after the Environmental Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) ordered a ban on diesel-based public transport in eight districts of Delhi-NCR (including Gurugram), the highly polluting diesel-run auto-rickshaws continue to be the most preferred mode of transport in the city.
According to a survey carried out by the School of Planning and Architecture(SPA) in Delhi, each diesel auto-rickshaw in Gurugram services on an average of 80 passengers daily, making it the most frequently used mode of intermediate public transport.
Sewa Ram, head of the department of transport planning at the SPA, explained that diesel auto-rickshaws have successfully established themselves as the cheapest mode of public transport on important routes, such as those from Kapashera to Old Gurugram, Rajiv Chowk to various Metro stations. They are also popular in Udyog Vihar and Manesar. Diesel auto-rickshaws are also built to accommodate more passengers, allowing drivers to overcrowd their vehicles, charging lesser fares per passenger while increasing their total earnings from a single trip.
CNG auto-rickshaws, on the other hand, cost more as they cannot accommodate as many passengers in a single trip as diesel auto-rickshaws. “While a CNG and a diesel auto-rickshaw might make the same amount of trips in a day, the latter is clearly the more convenient option for a commuter,” Ram said. This convenience, however, comes at a serious environmental cost. The combustion of diesel fuel emits more than 40 kinds of toxic pollutants in the air. Interestingly, a two-day strike by diesel auto-rickshaws in Gurugram in 2017 saw particulate matter levels in the city dip by 40%, according to Haryana State Pollution Control Board data.
According to Yogesh Sharma, state general secretary of the Haryana Auto Chalak Sanghatan, the Haryana government and district road transport authority have attempted to phase out these vehicles to curb air pollution, but public demand has kept their numbers up. “Half the city’s auto-rickshaw fleet runs on diesel. If they are made to stop, the remaining modes of transport will not be able to cope with the demand,” Sharma said.
Imran Raza, secretary to the Road Transport Authority, said, “We are implementing the apex court’s mandate in a long-term manner by not renewing licences for auto-rickshaws that are more than 10 years old.” However, newly purchased diesel auto-rickshaws can be still registered to legally ply on the streets.
A senior official in Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority’s mobility division confirmed that the authority was in plans to stop the use of these vehicles in areas lying within its jurisdiction. However, while the move is environmentally sound, it threatens to render thousands of auto-rickshaw drivers unemployed, Yogesh Sharma pointed out.
“Instead of abruptly banning all diesel vehicles, we should be provided with some sort of support, in forms of loans or subsidies, which will help us switch to CNG autos,” Sharma said, expressing support for the phasing out of diesel-run public transport.