How vehicle pollution-checking centres in Delhi are only weakening fight against pollution
After a court-ordered survey, the panel found that only two per cent vehicles failed the pollution tests and felt that this assessment did not present an accurate picture.
Rules for issuing vehicle pollution-check certificates and emission tests will become far more stringent in the Capital if a Supreme Court-mandated panel has its way.
In a report submitted to the SC, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, or EPCA, has said that vehicle pollution-checking centres in Delhi and NCR are only weakening the fight against toxic air. After a court-ordered survey, the panel found that only two per cent vehicles failed the tests and felt that this assessment did not present an accurate picture. "Corruption and poor testing procedures contribute towards poor failure rate", the agency said.
A May 2014 report by the WHO found Delhi the most polluted city in the world. A study by the EPCA the same year said air pollution was the fifth-biggest killer in India after high blood pressure, indoor air pollution from cooking fuels, tobacco smoking and poor nutrition. It said residents of Delhi and Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh have more reasons to worry as the two are among five critically polluted cities.
The top court had asked the EPCA to conduct surprise checks at all the 962 pollution checking units and report back. "PUC (Pollution Under Control) tests are vulnerable to fraud and corruption. Often these tests are not done properly and fake software is used. The sensor stick used for testing the pollution concentration in tailpipe is not properly inserted; or certain parameters like temperature testing at the time of smoke density tests in diesel vehicles are manipulated to pass the tests. It has also been reported that people obtain PUC certificates even without conducting the tests," Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director of Centre for Science and Environment, which is part of the EPCA, told Mail Today.
The Capital's air is a noxious combination of exhaust, dust, smoke from wood and dung-fired stoves, burning leaves and industrial output. The EPCA survey came after an inspection conducted by the central government revealed that at least a third of the existing 962 outlets in the Capital are involved in irregularities like fudging the emission report and giving clearance certificates to polluting vehicles for a price.
The Centre told the Supreme Court that after a study carried out between July and November 2016, show-cause notices have been issued to some 174 for irregularities, licenses of 14 have been cancelled, licenses of 75 have been suspended and warning notices issued to 78 such centres. Recommending stringent pollution checking norms, especially for diesel vehicles, the EPCA says the present technique is "archaic and very ineffective".
"The visible smoke that is currently tested in diesel vehicles does not monitor tiny particles. Very high emissions of tiny particles are possible from modern diesel engines that are not visible and cannot be captured through smoke density tests. While tightening norms for pre-BSIV vehicles it is also important to improve the test procedures for smoke density tests," it said. There is no way to measure particulate matter directly under the present PUC programme, the panel added.