The Supreme Court on Monday sought the government's views on a plea seeking imposition of a green tax on new and existing private diesel vehicles to check pollution in the National Capital Region.
The plea, filed by senior advocate Harish Salve, said a levy of 25% of the cost of vehicle should be imposed on every new diesel vehicle purchased in the NCR. Salve, who as amicus curiae is assisting the court in pollution matters, said the levy could be collected by car dealers at the time of sale of the vehicle. The application also sought a 4% levy on the cost of all existing diesel cars and 2% on all petrol cars being used as private vehicles in the city.
The application, however, restricted the plea only to private vehicles, claiming that pollution from all private diesel vehicles was equal to that of 30,000 diesel buses. Citing recent data from the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, the application said the level of suspended particulate matter in the NCR was eight times higher than the prescribed limit while the level of nitrogen dioxide was 2.8 times more than the limit.
It also said that the Delhi Pollution Control Committee had recently raised the level of air pollution in the NCR to "very unhealthy levels", arguing that if pollution continued at the current level, it would soon undo the gains made by switching the city's public transport to CNG from diesel. "These levels are unacceptable because they are a clear health hazard," the plea said. "Already there is evidence of severe respiratory aliments afflicting people. The air is toxic. NO2 is a trigger for serious respiratory conditions and sudden death syndrome among infants."
It blamed the pollution and smog haze in and around Delhi to the growing number of vehicles, especially diesel ones. About 1,400 new private vehicles are added every day to the Delhi roads, more than what were added before the switch to CNG, it said.
"The market share of diesel cars is more than 50% of sales unlike pre-CNG days. This is because of the growing differential between petrol and diesel. Diesel emission norms legally allow higher limits for NOx (nitrogen oxides) and particulate emissions as compared to a petrol car," it said. The application said that Delhi has exhausted all soft options to check air pollution such as imposing a cess to create an air ambient fund, subsidy conversion to battery and other non-polluting vehicles.
"The solution must be to restrain the growth of personal vehicle usage, particularly diesel vehicles and this is only possible through a highly augmented public transport system in Delhi and its region," it said.
The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority for Delhi and NCR had in 2007 urged the Supreme Court to completely end the use of petrol in Delhi.
In 2001, it had claimed that 80% of vehicular pollution in the city was due to diesel exhausts and called for a switch to clean diesel.
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