Ministry of Environment and Forests

Has a lot of power to safeguard public health. Prefers not to use it

Published: Thursday 15 March 2001

Ministry of Environment and Forests

In complete mockery of its very title, the Union ministry of environment and forests (mef) has shown no interest in pushing for implementation of the cng order despite all the power at its disposal. mef is only too happy with the national emission standards, which are nothing more than the minimum requirement. That more stringent measures are needed in critically polluted areas is completely lost on the ministry's bureaucrats who themselves have no clue about how to control pollution in any city of the country.

Existing vehicular emission standards can't rule out the possibility of further tightening in cities like Delhi. Which is why sc has ordered all buses, autorickshaws and taxis to move to cng . The court advanced introduction of Euro i emission norms for Delhi by almost one year in June 1999. Euro ii norms for cars were nowhere in the scene when the court made these mandatory from April 2000. The aim was obvious: push automakers and fuel suppliers to look towards more stringent emission norms with a certain amount of urgency.

mef has significant powers under section 5 of the Air Act, 1981, and the Environment (Protection) Act to enforce more stringent standards for pollution hot spots. Apart from once in 1997, when it notified the first ever fuel quality norms, the ministry has never made its presence felt. It has never discouraged dieselisation of the Indian auto sector. There has been no show of commitment or iniative on the part of T R Baalu, the minister of environment and forest.

The most glaring testimony to this is the ministry's affidavit filed in sc that opposed the epca recommendation of banning private diesel cars in Delhi. mef stated that diesel cars can't be banned if they meet the currently notified emission norms. The ministry's 1997 white paper on pollution in Delhi is little more than a common position of the all other Union government agencies concerned, such as ministries of industries, surface transport, petroleum and natural gas. It does nothing more to push for cng than propose more cng filling stations -- in typical government tradition of making toothless but politically correct suggestions.

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