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Quixotic: NGT MUSTNíT STALL GROWTH, By Shivaji Sarkar, 21 Dec, 2015 Print E-mail

Economic Highlights

New Delhi, 21 December 2015

Quixotic NGT


By Shivaji Sarkar


Publicity hunters are creating antipathy if not animosity against green issues. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal are leading the national capital to chaos in the name of checking pollution. They are trying to do something that a city with a poor transport link is bound to collapse.


Unfortunately, both the NGT and Kejriwal have one concern. They want to be in the focus of the media ignoring townships like Ferozabad and Moradabad, which have ten times higher particulate matter than Delhi. Who cares for such remote places! It would not help them be in the eyes of media blitzkrieg.


The economic cost of such decisions is too heavy on the industry, commuters and the people. The impending traffic dislocation from the New Year Day is to cost millions in terms of man hours lost and business. The decisions are impractical, highly inflationary and perturbing. A car is registered for 15 years and can have a longer life if maintained well. Simply what the NGT is doing to limit its life for ten years is illegal, unethical and unwise.


The Tughlaqi decision of the NGT of banning registration of diesel vehicles sounds strange. If the NGT is so concerned about diesel pollution, it should order closure of all units that produce diesel vehicles. The Supreme Court realized the folly and restored registration of light-duty diesel commercial vehicles in Delhi for “dependence on such vehicles for supply of essentials”. The court’s decision to double super tax for trucks passing through Delhi, however, lacks rationality. It is not a tax on the trucks but on the poor consumers. The court needs to revise its decision.


Delhi’s odd-even road rationing scheme has been criticized as confusing and unpredictable. How would it reduce pollution? None knows. Won’t people buy two cars so that their movements are not hit? A study by IIT, Kanpur suggests that road dust and two-wheeler cause more pollution. Should we ban two wheelers too?


Some may ask if Kejriwal is in league with car manufacturers and wants to boost their sales. He should know (but how can he?) that Delhi Metro is virtually collapsing as Delhi has only a rickety bus service and fleecing three-wheeler auto rickshaws, who are now being promoted by Kejriwal. So how would Delhiites travel to their places of work? Nobody seems to have a concern for them. People have only to rue for their decision of electing a flip-flop Chief Minister.


With such whimsical policies, knee jerk reactions even unfortunately by the apex court banning sale of diesel cars and SUVs above 2000cc and entry of commercial vehicles to Delhi, the auto makers have rightly stated: “India is now an unpredictable market”. The developed world does not mind having a Euro 4 diesel vehicle across Europe and the US. The policy flip-flop is bound to hit the investment climate that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is assiduously trying to build.


The NGT has also taken a decision to hit the tourism industry in the remote Rohatang Pass of Himachal Pradesh. It has levied Rs 500 as tax for each vehicle going to Rohtang and even stopped para-gliding in the “eco-sensitive” area. It has banned rafting at Rishikesh. The NGT is not cleaning the areas, rather robbing livelihood of lakhs of locals dependent on adventure tourism.


Why is the NGT quiet on stopping flow of Ganga at Tehri? It is threatening the Himalayan ecology and virtually leads to desertification of the northern Gangetic plains. Without its natural flow neither can Ganga be cleaned nor can man-made disaster be averted. The Tehri dam bursting at seams during the Uttrakhand disaster inundated vast stretches in UP.


The NGT did neither bother about the loss of 263 km of dense Western Ghat forests in Shivamogga in Karnataka to plantations over the past four years. Bengaluru itself lost 15 times the size of Lalbagh and Cubbon Park, two proud green spaces of the city, since 2013, reports the Forest Survey of India (FSI). It has so far not acted on turning the green Dehradun tea belt into a posh real estate.


Chennai now finds that much of its flooding and water-logging woes were consequences of outflows from major reservoirs into overflowing reservoirs. People wonder what NGT has been doing all these years. Had it done the least, the catastrophic situation might have been prevented.


In reality, Delhi is polluted for its virtual unplanned growth all around the NCR. Its roads are dusty, sidewalks and footpaths not fit for walking. Auto rickshaws crawl all over making its roads unsafe. That is an administrative and municipal problem. The NGT needs to look beyond Delhi. If it has concern for ecology, it can suggest diesel and petrol have the same price. If it feels diesel vehicles cause more pollution, instead of issuing firmans, it should confabulate with the industry on how to phase out such vehicles after studying the European and US conditions.


The NGT can ask the Government to extend subsidies and encourage manufacturers to promote low-cost electric and solar-powered vehicles. Why can’t it ask the government to fix a target that by 2020, 15-20 per cent public vehicles would be electrically operated? A large oil producing country, Norway, has highest penetration of 12 per cent electric vehicles. India has to go beyond cosmetic introduction of electric buses now and then - again publicity stunts by different governments. There has to be a policy for hybrid and electric vehicles as also creation of infrastructure for these.


The organizations such as the NGT are supposed to lead decision making. But being manned by not so experienced people, it takes the shortest route of getting easy publicity and embarrassing the governments. The Tribunal is neither supposed to cause policy paralysis nor take ill-thought of decisions that burden the nation with high costs.


As is well-known pollution is caused from many sources. The NGT has to encourage a study and formulation of comprehensive policies so that the nation is freed of it. It would be in tune with international COP21 climate concern on limiting temperature. Further, let the NGT be manned by professionals. Its job is not to throw spanners now and then to jeopardize government’s growth programmes. Instead it has to act intelligently to create awareness and prevent the nation from collapsing for its quixotic decisions. ---INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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