INDIA: Environmentalists criticise Delhi for avoiding air pollution ruling

Environmentalists have criticised the government of Delhi's attempts to get diesel with a 0.05% sulphur content accepted as a clean fuel. They say the move is designed to placate the transport lobby.

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) – an Indian environmental NGOs specialising in sustainable natural resource management – says the Delhi Government is trying to dilute the July 1998 Indian Supreme Court directive on clean fuel.

The Delhi government wants the Supreme Court to recognise 0.05% sulphur diesel as a clean fuel. This proposition, warns the CSE, will defeat the whole purpose of the Supreme Court order, which requires the replacement of all pre-1990 rickshaws and taxis with new vehicles that run on compressed natural gas (CNG) by March 31, 2000.

The Court has already ruled against diesel use in the capital several times. On March 31, the Court categorically rejected the use of diesel in Delhi. And in April, the Court said it would consider the feasibility of any alternative fuel including liquid propane gas (LPG), but not diesel.

The Court also noted that 0.05% sulphur diesel does not compare with the best quality diesel which contains only 0.001% sulphur.

The CSE says the Delhi government is attempting to pacify the transport lobby. The transport industry recently called a two day strike in protest, claims the CSE, against the manner in which the Delhi government was trying to implement the Supreme Court ruling.

The CSE says that the Delhi Government has spent the last two years attempting to avoid addressing the ruling, and has therefore failed to put in place a financial package for the replacements.

The Centre argues that the changeover to CNG could be financed by increasing the capital’s low rate of road tax for cars and scooters. It says that if the Delhi Government were to revise the road tax by Rs 2000 (£29) for a new car and Rs1000 (£14,50) for a new scooter, the city’s government could net over Rs 230,000,000 (£3,335,955) to finance the changeover.

This would easily cover the Rs160,000,000 (£2,320,664) that the Delhi Government estimates it needs to help Delhi’s rickshaw and taxi drivers purchase CNG kits.

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