With diesel vehicles being biggest source of air pollution in Delhi, noted environmentalist Sunita Narain today said there was a need to heavily tax such vehicles in the national capital.
With crude oil prices fallen below USD 50 per barrel, now is the right time for the government to implement second generation reforms to control pollution, she said, adding that pollution in Delhi was growing and road speeds were also down because private cars take up 90 per cent of road space.
"Even after introduction of CNG vehicles in 1999, the pollution levels have increased due to unabated rise in number of vehicles in the city. So, second generation measures are required to address the problem of pollution," Narain said while speaking on the topic 'Smart cities need clean air'.
Suggesting four steps to fix air pollution in Delhi, she said the government should ban use of diesel vehicles by taxing heavily and stop use of such vehicles during smog.
"Diesel and petrol differential remains because of tax. Diesel is classified class 1 carcinogen by the WHO same class as tobacco. We allow its use without restraints. We need to stop dieselisation of vehicles," said Narain, Director General at the Centre for Science and Environment.
Stating other countries are already taking steps to curb use of diesel vehicles, she said France has decided to phase out diesel cars, Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai as well as Brazil do not allow diesel cars.
That apart, neighbouring Sri Lanka has discouraged diesel cars with tax measures, she added.
Besides, Narain said there was a need to build public awareness about health impacts as diesel fuel contains fine particles associated with negative health effects.
Quoting the 2012 epidemiological study conducted on children in Delhi, she said, "Every third child has reduced lung function. Sputum of Delhi's children contains four times more iron-laden macrophages than those from cleaner environments, indicating pulmonary hemorrhage."
She also suggested "drastic and urgent improvement in quality of fuel/vehicle technology" and giving "push for public transport, mobility transition and right to walk for clean air" to address the problem of air pollution.