The Nitish Kumar government on Monday imposed a complete ban of state-owned vehicles which were more than 15 years old in Bihar, taking note of the surge in pollution levels that has been recorded during the recent festive season.
Talking to reporters in Patna after a high-level meeting on pollution control chaired by the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary Deepak Kumar said the restriction on vehicles more than 15 years old has also been extended to commercial vehicles "only for the Patna metropolitan area".
He also said that private vehicles have been exempted from the ban, though owners would be required to get fresh pollution tests done and obtain certificates for which intensive drive will be carried out from Tuesday.
"Notifications will be issued tomorrow (Tuesday) when the restrictions will come into force with immediate effect and remain in place until further orders. Also, mandatory fresh pollution checks have been ordered for auto-rickshaws in view of reports that many three-wheelers ran on kerosene and emitted copious fumes", the Chief Secretary said.
As a long-term measure, the government is thinking in terms of encouraging conversion of all diesel-run auto-rickshaws to CNG-driven ones or, if possible, to use electricity. Subsidies may also be given for those opting for such a change. This is in the pipeline.
A final plan of action will be shared later, he said. Additionally, it was decided at the meeting that to minimise pollution caused by construction activities, all sites shall be duly covered with sprinkling of water carried out at regular intervals, he said.
"The government will see to it that guidelines for construction sites were followed at public projects while municipal corporations have been instructed to ensure the same with regard to private buildings," he added.
Instructions have also been issued to ensure that only soundless generators be used at public places, the Chief Secretary said.
Trucks and pick-up vans involved in collection of garbage have also been strictly instructed to keep the trash covered on their way to dumping sites, he added.
"A decision has also been taken to include, in the Jal Jeevan Hariyali program, awareness drives to discourage rural folks from burning of straws which has been a practice in villages during winters to lit bonfires," he added. Replying to a query, the Chief Secretary said, "the decisions have been taken in view of the sudden rise in pollution levels in many parts of the state, most notably in the capital city. The pollution levels were under control before Deepawali, when it shot up understandably. Later, a dip in pollution levels was again followed by a fresh spike during Chhath".
Earlier, a presentation was made before the Chief Minister by Principal Secretary, Environment and Forestry, Dipak Kumar Singh in which it was stated that Patna, Gaya and Muzaffarpur figured in the list of 102 "non-attainable cities across the country" and that vehicular emission has been found to be the single biggest cause of air pollution followed by construction activities, burning of garbage, etc.