TNPCB prepares white paper on automobile pollution

CHENNAI, AUG. 30. The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) is working towards presentation of a white paper on automobile pollution in Chennai. At a two-hour review meeting with the Chief Minister, Ms. Jayalalithaa, last month, concerns were expressed on the increasing level of automobile pollution.

TNPCB sources said the Chief Minister suggested that a white paper be presented. The need for converting cars and autorickshaws into LPG, increasing mass transport, creating vehicle-free zones in areas like Panagal Park and Mambalam and phasing out of 40-year-old vehicles was pointed out to her.

The Chief Minister advised that phasing out of old vehicles should be carried out in phases without any disturbance to the stake-holders and members of the public. A white paper would be prepared involving the TNPCB, the MTC, the Metro Water, the police, the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority and the Transport Department.

The Board, meanwhile, conducted a week-long survey of automobiles at seven points in the city. Based on the report, the TNPCB has written to the Home Secretary, stressing the need for imposing a spot fine of Rs. 1,000, as being done in Mumbai, for default. The need for empowering the Board to conduct checks and levying fine was also stressed. Currently, the Board could only check vehicles, but it is the responsibility of the Transport Department or the police to levy fine or impound vehicles.

Mere issuance of warning to furnish valid Emission Under Control Certificate (EUCC) obtained from the emission testing centre within seven days of the first offence without making any entry in the registration certificate would not help in controlling vehicular pollution, the communication said.

A fine of Rs. 1,000 should also be levied, if the vehicle had EUCC and continued to pollute.

Though the Board spends Rs. 9,133 crores towards non-recurring and recurring expenditure for integrated air quality management in the State, the increase in the number of two-wheelers and other private vehicles exceeding the carrying capacity of city roads led to increased pollution, sources said. While the registration certificates of 151 vehicles were cancelled during the check, there was no way for the Board to follow up whether the vehicles were being impounded or not, an official said.

The TNPCB said out of 12.6 lakh vehicles registered, only 1.5 lakhs had EUCC. Over 80 per cent of the vehicles were plying without EUCC, and the TNPCB had been receiving complaints on pollution. The complaints were forwarded to the Transport Commissioner.

TNPCB officials said controlling automobile pollution could not be a ``tail-pipe solution''. ``Though PUC has its uses, the TNPCB's role has so far been advisory'', an official said.

Revamping and augmenting public transport was the only alternative to reducing the number of two-wheelers and other non- transport vehicles clogging arterial roads during peak hours, officials said. Another step to decongest roads would be to expedite the setting up of four lorry terminals. The MTC has agreed to a joint-inspection with the TNPCB on polluting buses and after October, the most polluting ones would be removed from service.

The TNPCB planed to convert its eight-hour air quality monitoring to 24 hours at its five monitoring centres. Additional staff were required to work in three shifts, officials said.

Responding to a question on the need for the Board to improve its research database on automobile pollution, Ms. Sheela Rani Chunkath, Chairperson, TNPCB, said: ``We know the major sources of pollution, and now need to focus our energies on management issues and not pursue it as an academic problem''.