• Schools shut as Govt looks for more buses

  • City coughs up crores for air qualityCO recommends action against ECL, contractors

  • CO recommends action against ECL, contractors

  • Schools shut as Govt looks for more buses


    NEW DELHI: The Delhi government ordered schools closed for two days as it hurriedly got its act together to put 1000 more buses using Compressed Natural Gas on the road on Monday morning.

    Transport minister Ajay Maken said his government was committed to providing clean air to its citizens. It would now do everything possible to implement the Supreme Court’s decisions.

    There would be some inconvenience but the government was working on several steps to ensure normal bus services as soon as possible. As the first measure it will place an order for 1,000 CNG buses. The first of these will be on the road by June 1. Till then it will juggle private and the Delhi Transport Corporation’s (DTC) buses using CNG. The numbers add up as follows: 2,200 DTC CNG buses, 2,500 RTVs and mini buses besides 1,200 private CNG buses.

    Additionally, Maken said the government would also request the court on Monday to waive the fine and allow the diesel buses till then.

    The Supreme Court on Friday shut the door on diesel buses saying they were causing huge harm to public health. The number of cancer cases was going up dramatically because of air pollution. Children in large numbers were asthmatic in Delhi and other cites like Kolkata.

    The court blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party Union government for this. It said despite all the evidence of the harm being done to public health the Vajpayee government and petroleum ministry in particular had chosen to protect the polluter and ignore the ordinary citizen.

    The Congress state government under Sheila Dikshit in Delhi had also failed to go ahead with the conversion of buses. This has slowed down efforts to provide clean air.

    The court said 800 diesel buses should be phased out every month. ‘‘The figure of 800 buses was based on availability of CNG buses and requirement. The figure was reached after consultations with representatives of the government, Indraprastha Gas Limited and bus operators,’’ said senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan.

    He said the figure was not at all unrealistic given the fact that Telco and Ashok Leyland are capable of manufacturing buses at this rate. ‘‘The apprehensions are being deliberately raised to scuttle the conversion process,’’ he said.

    Private operators put the blame for delaying implementation of the apex court’s order squarely on the government. ‘‘We were given to understand that Euro-II diesel vehicles would be permitted,’’ said Shyam Lal Gola, president of Delhi Bus Ekta Manch. ‘‘We continued to ply diesel buses on the basis of assurances given by the government.’’ Operators also want the penalties imposed by the Supreme Court — Rs 500 per day from February 1 to April 4 and Rs 1,000 every day thereafter — to be either waived or paid by the government.

    Central schools open

    The Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan has said Central schools will remain open. Private schools with their own buses will also be open.


    City coughs up crores for air quality


    NEW DELHI: Quality of air has not meant much to our politicians. Over the years the cost of breathing polluted air has been paid by residents of Delhi — be it in the form of asthma, pulmonary distress or even cancer.

    Former chief ministers Madan Lal Khurana and Sahib Singh, both backed the transporters for their own political gains even as environmentalists cried themselves hoarse about the growing levels of air pollution.

    And now that the judiciary has started a tirade against polluting vehicles, our politicians are still trying to find the easy way out. One that prevents them from taking a firm stand to clear up the air and annoy an important section of the electorate — the commercial vehicle owners.

    But this time, the netas may not be able to get away with it. Centre for Science and Environment director Sunita Narain said, ‘‘It is now well established that air pollution leads to considerable levels of mortality and morbidity.’’

    She said, ‘‘Global research as well as the little research that exists in India reveals a frightening picture of deadly air. Scientists are finding that fine particulate matter, or respirable particulate matter (RSPM) — less than 10 microns — in the air are particularly dangerous.’’

    Sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen oxide — the three most deadly pollutants come from vehicular emission.

    There are 50 million people suffering from asthma in India. This disease is incurable and patients can only keep down the severity of an attack. One such step is to stay away from polluted environs. And in a city like Delhi, this is virtually impossible.

    Vallabhai Patel Chest Institute chest specialist Dr Amit Dhamija said, ‘‘With prolonged exposure to these pollutants, the particles stick to the walls of the lungs and breathing becomes difficult.’’

    Dr Dhamija said, ‘‘If lungs are not able to perform to capacity, not enough oxygen gets into the blood. And in such a situation, various organs including the heart, kidneys and liver may get adversely affected.’’

    Ganga Ram Hospital lung expert Dr Neeraj Jain said, ‘‘Some of my non-smoker patients suffer all year round as their work places are located on busy roads.’’

    He said, ‘‘Upper respiratory tract infections are also caused by the poisonous gases released by vehicles. Such infections can be very debilitating and some children suffer for months together.’’

    According to an estimate by the World Bank study using 1992 data the annual health cost to India was up to about Rs 5,550 crore due to ambient air pollution. Out of this, the health cost of air pollution in Delhi alone was found to be about Rs 1,000 crore.

    In another study conducted by J N Pande of AIIMS, observed emergency room visits for acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive airways disease, acute severe asthma and acute coronary event in relation to the levels of ambient air pollution during the period of January 1, 1997 to December 31, 1998. During the year 1997, 6478 people with cardio respiratory complaints visited the outpatient department, but the number increased in 1998 to 9334.

    A three-year study by S K Chhabra of the Patel Chest Institute from 1996 to 1998, found that 20-25 per cent of the adult population of Delhi was suffering from chronic respiratory symptoms like cough, phlegm, breathlessness and wheezing.

    Rate of occurrence of respiratory diseases in urban areas of Delhi were at least double that of the people residing in adjoining rural areas, Dr Chhabra found.

    According to the World Bank, premature deaths due to air pollution was estimated to have gone up from 40,000 in 1991-92 to 52,000 in 1995 in Indian cities an increase of 30 per cent.

    A 1997 study by Centre for Science and Environment revealed that one person died prematurely almost every hour in Delhi in 1995 due to suspended particulate matter.


    CO recommends action against ECL, contractors


    BHAGALPUR: The circle officer (CO) of Pirpainti block under this district has recommended stern action against Eastern Coalfields officials and its contractors for the pollution being caused by them.

    The CO submitted his report to the SDO, Kahalgaon (vide letter no. 429 dated 1.12.2001) about the pollution causing events in the area. In his nine-point probe report, the circle officer has mentioned that everyday around 200 trucks overloaded with coal start from the Lalmatia coal mines under the Rajmahal project of the Eastern Coalfields Ltd (ECL). After passing through Barahat-Ishipur, they finally reach the coal-duming site at Shermari Bazar. From Shermari Bazar, the coal is being supplied to the various thermal power plants, including at Farakka and Kahalgaon, by railway wagons.

    "Since these overloaded trucks carry more than 12 tonnes of coal, while they should not load more than nine tonnes, and dispose of coal ashes way above the permissible limit, the level of the suspended particulate matter (SPM) and RCPM must be checked by an expert team from the pollution control board," the report says.

    The report also mentions that the disposed ashes has wreaked havoc in the roadside villages. "The Rajmahal project management and the coal-dumping contractor Jalan may be considered responsible for the deaths caused by severe chronic obstructive lung diseases, especially tuberculosis, bronchitis, asthma and respiratory tract infections in these villages," the report mentions.

    It further says, "Due to the disposed coal ash, the area is on the verge of absolute deforestation. About 1,000 trees planted a few years ago, have dried up and if harsh measures against the ECL management and the contractors is not taken on time, major ecological imbalances may occur."

    It indicates that several thousand acres of land is turning into infertile terrain in roadside villages, especially at Bandpur and Nauwatoli. Moreover, the coal ashes have made the safe potable drinking water a distant dream for the villagers and the sound pollution caused by the overloaded trucks has increased the cases of heart and mental diseases in the surrounding areas.