Delhi administration has outlined its plans to restrict the number of vehicles on its roads at the beginning of January, as the world’s most polluted capital attempts to clean up its toxic air.
The decision of the Supreme Court to ban the registration of diesel-run private cars of the capacity of 2000 CC and above and SUVs helped the government to proceed with their green initiative.
The government announced last week it will restrict private car use on alternate days on the basis of license plates from January 1, a measure to check air pollution levels in the Indian capital. The government will also conduct air monitoring at 200 locations to gauge the impact of the ban, he said, and formulate a long term policy on curbing air pollution in the city.
The 11-page order of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur reasoned that these high-end diesel vehicles were more prone to cause higher levels of pollution. “We accordingly direct that Registration of SUVs and private cars of the capacity of 2000 CC and above using diesel as fuel shall stand banned in the NCR up to March 31, 2016,” Chief Justice Thaur pronounced the order, which overcomes any other order passed by other courts or tribunals, including the National Green Tribunal.
The ban however would not affect new commercial light duty diesel vehicles for the present. This category of vehicles would continue to be registered in Delhi on account of the dependence of the public on them for supply of essentials.
The court further ordered that all taxis including those operating under aggregators like OLA and UBER in the NCT of Delhi, plying under city permits, shall move to C.N.G. not later than March 1, 2016.
The Supreme Court further noted how its earlier direction on October 9, 2015 to levy Environment Compensation Cess (ECC) was meant as a deterrent for commercial vehicles not bound for Delhi from entering the Capital city. Instead, the apex court realised that the order was construed to mean that these commercial vehicles could enter after paying the cess.
“The direction appears to have been understood to mean as though vehicles not bound for Delhi could also enter Delhi provided they pay ECC. The true intention, however, was that the vehicles that are not bound for Delhi are diverted to alternative routes to bypass Delhi. The levy of ECC has no doubt resulted in some diversion of such vehicles but a very large number of vehicles not bound for Delhi still appear to be entering Delhi on payment of ECC, stipulated by us,” the Supreme Court observed.
Cities are not made for cars, but for people, a top industry ministry official said on Thursday, reacting to the automobile industry’s concerns about a Supreme Court order temporarily banning the sale of diesel vehicles and SUVs with an engine of over 2,000 cc in the capital.
“There is a need for predictability, consistency and clarity in policy for investors. But there is also an imperative need for sustainability and we need to balance that with urbanisation and manufacturing. We must balance (economic) growth with sustainability,” said Amitabh Kant, Secretary in the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion on Thursday.
He was reacting to concerns raised by auto makers in the light of the Supreme Court order. German car maker Mercedes, which is expected to be worst-hit, said on Wednesday that the ban creates an environment of uncertainty and will severely impact it expansion plans and future investments for the Indian market.
Manufacturing investments should be made with a long-term perspective and not be swayed by short-term changes in the environment, he stressed.
Instead, the industry secretary said that car makers should create a momentum to achieve lower emissions and bring in the best technologies from the world in electric cars and green mobility solutions.
Mr. Kant said that foreign direct investment inflows into India had risen by 35 per cent in the last seventeen months, compared to the previous seventeen months. “I expect FDI flows would continue to grow at 30 per cent next year as well,” he said.
Over 150 foreign firms are in the process of investing in India, Mr. Kant said with certainty and more investments are in the pipeline. Prime Minister Narendra Modi would inaugurate a Make In India week to be held in Mumbai in February 2016 in partnership with States and industry, he added .
There are more than 8.5 million vehicles on Delhi’s roads with 1,400 new cars added every day.
Air pollution in Delhi has reached alarming proportions, with some locations recording levels ten times more than permissible. During winter months Delhi remains enveloped in a smoggy layer as cooler air and cloud trap pollutants.
Successive Delhi governments have faced flak for failing to clean up the city’s filthy air, ranked as the worst in the world by the World Health Organisation.
The decision to restrict private cars came two days after India’s environmental court ordered the Delhi government to come up with a strategy to tackle the smog that has settled over the city in recent weeks.