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Welcoming Delhi govt's budget CSE says it aims to address city's air pollution
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) welcomed the budget pitch of the Delhi government that has prioritized public transport augmentation and service for all. The government has also taken a step forward to apply the 'polluter pays' principle and impose a congestion tax on incoming trucks -- the revenue will be used to augment the city's public transport system.

This is a much needed move at a time when Delhi is gasping for breathe and the daily travel trips are expected to explode to 25.3 million trips a day. The travel choices of the people will determine the liveability of Delhi.

CSE's executive director Anumita Roychowdhury, who also heads its air pollution control campaign said in a press release: "If no further action is taken to radically improve public transport, walking and cycling, Delhi will gasp for breath, pay unacceptable fuel costs and spew warming gases like never before."

The key highlights of the new budget for the city to address air pollution and mobility crisis are as follows:

i. Focus on augmentation of bus transport and improvement in bus transport service: The total proposed expenditure in the transport sector in 2015-16 is Rs 5,085 crore, which is 23 per cent more than 2014-15. The government has proposed to procure about 1,380 semi-low floor buses, 500 midi buses under DTC and around 1,000 more buses under the cluster scheme by the end of 2016. 

ii. Congestion fee on incoming trucks: The budget acknowledges alarming levels of air pollution is a cause of concern for all and trucks contribute hugely to pollution. It has, therefore, proposed to impose congestion tax on incoming trucks. This fund will be used to augment environment friendly public transport system, and install weigh-in-motion bridges to discourage overloading of trucks that cause more pollution. While this is a step forward to apply the 'polluter pays' principle, the full potential of this measure can be realized only when this tax is extended to all cars that cause congestion in the city.

iii. Augmentation in zero-emissions para transit systems for last mile connectivity: The budget has proposed to issue about 5,500 new auto permits to ply in the NCR. It has proposed to give a subsidy for purchase of e-rickshaws from the Air Ambiance Fund as these vehicles are environment-friendly. It is hoped that additional measures will be taken to organise this service for efficient last mile connectivity across the city. 

However, it may be noted that the budget has sought private sector participation for augmentation of the road infrastructure. But such a move should also mandate implementation of people and public transport-friendly street design guidelines and not car-centric infrastructure. 

CSE said that the new government should focus on the people-carrying capacity of roads. Delhi has already massively invested in building roads and flyovers over the past many years, but most of the roads exceed their carrying capacity.

The budget should also discontinue the practice of one-time parking charges and introduce high and variable rates for parking across the city to discourage car use and increase revenues from parking. Vehicles use up huge amounts of land for parking.

Roychowdhury said in the statement, "If this is not done, congestion will be inevitable and so will be its resultant pollution, oil guzzling and a poor quality of city life. Delhi can avoid the looming pollution and congestion disaster only if its transport planning hinges on sustainability, equity, and a people-centric approach."

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