NGO red flags trucks entering Delhi; questions MCD data

CSE alleged that trucks were running on outdated technology, spewing "more smoke" to leave Delhi choked.

NGO red flags trucks entering Delhi; questions MCD data

New Delhi: Terming "unreliable" the MCD's data for calculating pollution load from trucks in Delhi, an NGO Tuesday claimed that the actual figure of such vehicles daily entering the national capital was 70 per cent more than the civic body's estimate.

Warning that this can lead to gross underestimation of the "enormous" pollution load from trucks and weaken action in this regard, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) also alleged that these trucks were running on outdated technology, spewing "more smoke" to leave Delhi choked.

A new study by the NGO, which has challenged the MCD's data, found that most of these trucks entering into the city from nine points pass through Delhi to avoid higher toll charges on other routes.

On a daily basis, some 38,588 commercial vehicles (excluding taxis) enter Delhi only from the said nine locations, the study reported.

If that is extrapolated to the 127 entry points into Delhi, then a total of 52,146 commercial vehicles (excluding taxis) enter the national capital, the study, which measured vehicles in both directions, said.

The daily average number of light and heavy goods vehicles entering and exiting from the nine points was 85,799, it said. The total number of commercial light and heavy trucks entering and leaving the city is 1,15,945 each day, the report added.

"The MCD estimate of the number of trucks crossing Delhi borders is grossly underestimated and is unreliable for calculating pollution load from trucks," the study said.

According to MCD data, an average of 22,628 commercial vehicles, excluding taxis, enters Delhi each day from nine entry points as against the 38,588 commercial vehicles counted in the CSE survey, which is almost 16,000 vehicles less.

According to MCD, the total number of light and heavy trucks that enter Delhi everyday from all entry points is 30,373, which, too, is lower than what the CSE survey counted at nine entry points.

"Thus, MCD data on daily average truck entry is an under- estimation by an astounding 70 per cent. The gap at different entry points varies in the range of 50-96 per cent.

"The survey establishes that the official numbers for trucks entering the city are a gross underestimation and end up seriously under-estimating the health impact (on its residents)," the study said.

"The pollution is highest in the city during the time when there is movement of heavy and light trucks. While trends are more variable during summer night time pollution is sharper during winter," it said.

The study added that the ambient levels of PM2.5 and NOx "vary and spike" according to the hourly volume of truck traffic entering Delhi.

CSE commissioned a detailed survey vis-a-vis trucks and Delhi by M/s VR Techniche Consultants Pvt Ltd.

The traffic count survey used 24X7 video recording method at fixed spots near selected entry points between June 29 and July 18, 2015. It tallied all categories of trucks and other commercial vehicles that feature in the MCD database.

CSE said that the study included information on the time of entry of all commercial vehicles and when this movement of vehicles was correlated with pollution data, a clear trend emerged.

"Without the right numbers and more varied strategies, official action to control truck pollution has remained, and will remain, weak and ineffective," said CSE director general Sunita Narain.

Elaborating on the "enormous" contribution to pollution load, the study said that Delhi's own vehicles are responsible for 62 per cent of the particulate load from the transport sector and 68 per cent of the NOx load.

The total number of light and heavy trucks that enter Delhi spew close to 30 per cent of the total particulate load and 22 per cent of the total nitrogen oxide load of the transport sector.

"This is clearly a massive loading of toxic pollution. Without any restraint on the movement of these trucks, Delhi's battle against toxic pollution cannot be won.

"Though light goods vehicles account for 49 per cent of all commercial vehicles, the relative contribution of heavy trucks (to pollution) is much higher," said Narain.

The most "shocking" matter, the study said, was how trucks were passing through Delhi not only because it is a shorter, but also because it is a lot cheaper as they avoid alternative toll roads around Delhi.

The revelations come even as truckers last night called off a five-day-old strike over, among other things, a demand for the scrapping of the present toll collection system, which a transporters' body said was a tool of harassment for them.

"There are some viable options available for bypass of commercial traffic, but these roads are not favoured by transporters. There are alternative highways that exist on the western side of the city to transport goods between north and west and south India.

"But trucks prefer to traverse through Delhi and not take these alternative highway routes despite the fact that there is no apparent and real difference in length," the study said.

CSE has welcomed a Supreme Court intervention in response to an application filed by Amicus Curiae Harish Salve who, based on CSE findings and recommendations of the Environment Pollution (Prevent and Control) Authority, has sought immediate measures to control truck pollution before winter pollution sets in.

CSE executive director Anumita Roychowdhury said that the study has become necessary as it is clear that Delhi cannot fight its pollution battle without addressing the enormous pollution load contributed by the trucks crossing its borders daily.

"Given the coming winter and the increase in pollution, we need to find urgent options. While immediate steps are needed to complete the two expressways -? western and eastern -- directed by Supreme Court over a decade ago, it is possible to take additional steps in the short term to reduce pollution load from trucks before this winter.

"Delhi has now got the dubious distinction of being the most-polluted city in India and, perhaps, even the world. This is putting a huge health burden on its people," she said.

The study also said that there is no "reliable" data on commercial traffic that is not destined for Delhi.

It said that the MCD data shows that the number of trucks turned back, in compliance with the order of Supreme Court, was a mere 0.3 per cent of the total traffic.

"In other words, even taking the MCD estimate of the numbers of light and heavy vehicles, just 90 such vehicles were not destined for Delhi and the rest 29,000 needed to do business in the city," it said.

CSE offered a number of recommendations, including for the levy of a "pollution compensatory charge" on all light and heavy-duty trucks entering Delhi as an additional charge to the MCD toll.

It also called for the implementation of Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) on trucks which will enable electronic payment and help track them as they pass through tollbooths. This, the study said, will help to identify non-destined trucks with greater precision and make management easier.

It said that although the highways authority has directed a nationwide roll-out of RFID for commercial vehicles, its implementation remains slow.

The study also called for the introduction of Bharat Stage IV emissions standards nationwide by April, 2016, saying that emission levels from trucks cannot be lowered effectively if they continue to run on outdated technology and highly- polluting fuel.

"The current draft standards issued by the Ministry of Surface Transport and Highways require inter-state (truck) traffic to move to Bharat Stage IV only in April 2017. This delay is unacceptable," it said.

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