Green activists happy, vehicle owners worried over ban order

July 20th, 2008 - 3:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, July 20 (IANS) The city’s green activists have welcomed with a sigh of relief the Calcutta High Court (HC) judgement banning commercial vehicles, registered on or before January 1, 1993, from plying in the metropolis. But for thousands of bus and minibus owners, the order Friday came as a shock as they claimed that about 80 percent of commercial vehicles will be off the roads once the judicial directive comes into effect March 31, 2009.

“The judgement is very unfortunate for thousands of bus and minibus owners and many other people who are directly or indirectly involved in this profession. We are planning to move the Supreme Court soon after getting a copy of the High Court order,” Sadhan Das, West Bengal Joint Council of Bus Syndicate (WBJCBS) general secretary, told IANS.

He said about 70 percent of the total vehicles plying in Kolkata and its three adjoining districts - South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas and Howrah - are commercial.

“If these vehicles are banned due to the age factor, the total public transport system would collapse. Commercial vehicles can only be banned if they are not maintaining the standard pollution norms, according to the Environment Protection Act,” he said.

The Calcutta High Court banned commercial vehicles registered on or before January 1, 1993 from Kolkata and its outskirts. All auto rickshaws would also have to convert either to compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) mode. All autos with two-stroke engines have to be phased out by the year-end.

The HC judgement came following a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a green crusader Subhash Dutta in March 2007.

“We have called representatives from all commercial vehicle organisations and will hold a meeting next week to take the final decision. We are hopeful of getting justice from the Supreme Court,” said Swarnakamal Saha, Kolkata Metropolitan Bus and Minibus Association member.

He said: “About 15 lakh (1.5 million) vehicles, of which over 80 percent are commercial, ply across 1,450 km of total roads in the Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA).”

But green activist Dutta is gung-ho over the judgement.

“It’s a very good judgement to reduce the city’s pollution level but we, the green activists, now will have to ensure that the order is carried out properly. The judgement covered most of the major points of the litigation such as ban on old commercial vehicles and using adulterated fuel,” Dutta told IANS.

He said that the average speed of cars in Kolkata is only 5 km per hour.

“A two-member committee will be formed soon to monitor the situation and find out if the order is being carried out properly,” he said.

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