No easy going for commercial vehicles

October 08, 2015 12:00 am | Updated 05:35 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Commercial vehicles, which used to pass through Delhi to save heavier toll taxes elsewhere, will no longer enjoy the easy passage. These vehicles will now have to cough up environmental compensation of up to Rs. 1,000 per entry, over and above the toll tax for polluting Delhi’s air.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday came down heavily on commercial vehicles, which have been a major source of pollution in Delhi. The compensation would be payable at the rate of Rs. 500 for two axle vehicles, Rs 700. for three and Rs. 1,000 for four axle vehicles.

The Bench made it clear that the compensation so collected will be spent by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to take steps to improve ambient air quality. It also directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and DPCC to arrange for instruments to check emission of moving overloaded heavy vehicles.

Rajendra Kapoor, president of the Delhi Goods Transport Organisation, however, termed the development as “vague and not-permanent”.

“First, the roads are not ready and we are being told to take alternate routes. The NGT has announced the Panipat-Bawal route but what about the eastern peripheral route? Second, the order does not specify what would happen to vehicles which go through Panipat but eventually come to Delhi for refilling of goods. Will they also be charged compensation? Will an unloaded vehicle be charged? This will lead to nothing but inflation of cost.”

S. P Singh, a road transport expert from the India Foundation of Transport Research and Training (IFTRT), said: “Till date, under pressure from Truckers’ Unions and resistance from the Delhi Municipal Corporation to provide collection points, the issue was being virtually buried by the Delhi government. Indications are now coming from official sources that collection of pollution charge at the Delhi border is proposed to be replaced with pollution levy on diesel sold in Delhi, which is defeating the purpose of checking pollution.”

In another major announcement, the NGT said vehicles coming to Delhi via Panipat will now be routed through NH-71 (Jalandar-Rewari highway) and 71-A (Rohtak–Panipat Road).

A Bench headed by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar approved the route that will include Panipat- Rohtak-Jhajjar- Rewari- Bawal.

]The suggested route is a stretch of 166 kms. If the vehicles pass through Delhi, they have to cover 174 km. With this, vehicles not destined for Delhi shall be diverted at Panipat to take the alternate route covering Rohtak, Jhajjar and Rewari and exiting at Bawal in Haryana, which would mean a heavier toll tax.

Delhi Police’s counsel D Rajeshwar Rao said vehicles have been crossing Delhi rather than taking the alternate route to save toll tax as the five stops on the second route come under Haryana, which charges Rs. 930 at every toll, while Delhi charges Rs. 609.

The Bench also said, “It is a conceded position before us that vehicular pollution is one of the main sources of inferior quality of air in Delhi.... Nearly 66,000 heavy commercial vehicles enter Delhi daily. It is stated before us that low toll tax is an incentive to pass through Delhi.”

The NGT also asked the Joint Commissioners of Traffic in Delhi and Haryana to deliberate on an alternate route from Gurgaon and Ghaziabad, while the Delhi Police and other agencies were also directed to do what is needed to decongest Aurobindo Marg and Vikas Marg.

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