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Poll-bound Delhi govt sends back air pollution agenda

Aug 06, 2013

The much awaited 'Agenda for Air Pollution Control', finally arrived at a cabinet meeting chaired by Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit-only to be sent back to the drawing board for another round of reviews.

The roadmap chalked out by the agenda to ensure that the national capital meets fairly stringent air quality standards by 2017 involves many tough decisions, which may lead to controversies that the CM is apparently unwilling to court so close to state elections.  Few are willing to buy the official line that the plan was returned because it needed to be more sharply defined; the real killer, it is believed, was the fear of a political backlash in an election season.  "The government wants to tread carefully and not stir up controversies on parking, urban transport and traffic just months before the elections," said an observer.

With the agenda returned ostensibly for fine-tuning, the chances of it returning to the cabinet for approval before the election code of conduct kicks in seem low. Sources in the department said they did not have the mandate to issue directions to other departments and, hence, the proposal was generic or "open ended".

"The cabinet needs to clear it first before specific directions to other stakeholder departments can be issued. However, we will now work towards making the agenda sharper, more focused and look at specific actions that can be taken under each of the 10 action points," said a senior official.

With over 74 lakh vehicles in the city, transport is a major issue. More than 55% of Delhi's population is exposed to the toxic influence of roads and is highly vulnerable to resultant health problems. To reduce vehicular emissions, it has been proposed that Euro V and VI fuel emission standards ought to be mandatory for new vehicles.For running vehicles, the agenda recommends stricter pollution control norms and establishment of centralized emission testing centres. Border checks on overloading vehicles, diversion of trucks, fast-tracking of expressway construction and chalking out an inter-state public transport plan are among the other proposals.

A public transport plan to reduce number of vehicles in the city has also been proposed and is to be framed by officials of DTC, transport department, DDA, DMRC, UTTIPEC, environment department, DPCC and EPCA. This committee will also conduct traffic impact assessment for projects requiring an environmental clearance. The agenda focuses also on an effective parking policy.

Besides spreading awareness, the agenda proposes transit-oriented zones and pro-poor mobility systems involving zonal plans and a non-motorized transport network.

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