Curbs imposed on diesel vehicles in India's capital

A taxi in India being pumped with diesel fuel. New Delhi's toxic air was ranked worst in the world by a World Health Organisation survey last year.
A taxi in India being pumped with diesel fuel. New Delhi's toxic air was ranked worst in the world by a World Health Organisation survey last year.PHOTO: REUTERS

Measures include temporary ban on new SUVs, luxury vehicles

NEW DELHI • India's top court yesterday imposed a temporary ban on new diesel-guzzling sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and other luxury cars in New Delhi.

The Supreme Court also barred diesel trucks older than 10 years from entering the city, one of a string of orders handed down to tackle smog-shrouded Delhi.

Chief Justice T.S. Thakur ordered the ban on the registration of new diesel vehicles with engine capacities of over 2 litres, typical of SUVs, jeeps and large cars made by BMW, Toyota and other manufacturers.

The courts are pushing the authorities to act over New Delhi's toxic air, ranked as the worst in the world in a World Health Organisation survey last year of over 1,600 cities.

The ban on new diesel car registration would last until March 31, according to local media reports.

The court also barred the entry of diesel vehicles registered before 2005 into the capital and doubled the environment compensation charge on diesel-engine vehicles.

The order is separate from an environmental court's decision last week to halt the sale of new diesel-powered vehicles temporarily and comes as the Delhi state government prepares to restrict the number of cars on its roads next month on an experimental basis.

The green court's order has already drawn criticism from automakers, with the country's biggest vehicle manufacturers' group saying it could derail the industry.

Leading environmentalist Sunita Narain, who was in the court, said judges also ordered city-based taxis to move from diesel to CNG (compressed natural gas) by the end of March and banned the burning of garbage. "There cannot be anything more fundamental than the right to clean air and what the court has recognised today... (is) this is a public health emergency," Ms Narain told reporters.

Successive Delhi governments have faced scathing criticism for failing to come up with a strategy to tackle the smog. The city government earlier this month said private vehicles would be allowed on the roads only on alternate days for a trial period in January.

Delhi's air routinely worsens in the winter as the poor start lighting fires to stay warm and as cooler air and clouds trap pollutants. But unlike Beijing, which also suffers from hazardous haze levels, the city does not issue public health warnings.

India's air quality index based on readings of PM2.5 - tiny, toxic particles that lead to respiratory diseases - was 258 as of 8am yesterday in the Indian capital and categorised as very unhealthy, according to the US Embassy in New Delhi.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2015, with the headline 'Curbs imposed on diesel vehicles in India's capital'. Print Edition | Subscribe