Bihar mulls banning gas guzzlers

Given the deteriorating air quality in the state capital, the Bihar government is mulling a ban on registration and movement of diesel SUVs (sport utility vehicles) of capacity 2,000 cc and above.

The state government announced on Tuesday in the Assembly that it had already banned 15-year-old diesel vehicles in the city, which is among other measures to control pollution.

"The pollution level was particularly high in Patna during December-February," said minister Alok Mehta in a reply to a question in state assembly by senior BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) leader Nand Kishore Yadav. "The air quality deteriorated badly during the winter season due to the concentration of dust particles and high level of particulate matter (PM) 2.5," he said.

"Therefore, to improve the city's air quality, we have decided to take several steps. We have decided to shut down almost 300 brick clinkers around the city. Plus, no new licences are being given to set up clinkers around the city and older ones have been asked to use cleaner technology," said the minister.

He also added that the state government was considering banning the gas-guzzlers in and around the city. "Vehicular pollution is a major source of PM 2.5. Therefore, we are considering banning the registration and movement of diesel-powered SUVs, with engine capacity of 2,000 cc and above in the city. The state transport authority has been asked to give its views on the matter," said the minister.

The minister confirmed that 15-year-old diesel vehicles have been banned in the state capital. Proposal in this regard had been put forward by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar during a departmental meeting chaired by him in December 2015.

Late last year, the Bihar State Pollution Control Board had sent an advisory to the chief secretary stating that the air quality index of the state capital had crossed 400 in November-December, making Patna the second-most polluted city in the country. The major pollutants are the vehicular traffic and dust particles, said a state government officer.

"Patna is a small city and it is faced with too much traffic. This leads to higher vehicular emission, which makes the air dirty. We are planning to target those with biggest cars, which pollute the air most," said a senior official.    

Bihar is the largest utility vehicle market in the eastern region. A total of 18,000 utility vehicles are sold every year in the state. Most utility vehicles are diesel-based. Sales of leading utility vehicle firms, including that of Mahindra and Mahindra, Toyota, and Tata Motors, will be affected, if the state government decides to implement the ban. Mahindra’s Scorpio, Bolero, and XUV500; Toyota’s Innova and Fortuner; and Tata Safari, among others, are expected to be affected.

Mahindra, which was the worst hit by a Supreme Court ban on diesel vehicles of 2,000 cc and above in Delhi-National Capital Region, has successfully launched vehicles with 1,990-cc diesel engines for plying in NCR. The new engine Mahindra launched in January has taken care of its NCR market sales. Mahindra can easily replicate the same in Bihar market.

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