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16 Feb 2018

Call to run Siliguri autos on gas

An autorickshaw emitting smoke passes through Siliguri town on Thursday. Picture by Passang Yolmo
AVIJIT SINHA, TT, Feb 15, 2018, Siliguri: A section of Siliguri residents on Thursday said the Bengal government should take an initiative to convert the 1,200-odd diesel autorickshaws in and around the city into gas-driven vehicles.

"It is these autos which emit maximum smoke in and around Siliguri. Also, there are some old trucks, which are usually used to ferry construction materials, which emit thick smoke. It is time that the state takes an initiative so that autos are run by LPG or CNG, instead of diesel. This will largely cut down air pollution," said Akhil Biswas, a prominent lawyer of the city.

There is also a need to intensify pollution check of vehicles moving through the city, he added.

Recent figures available with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPSB) have shown that the Air Quality Index (AQI) of Siliguri is higher than many other cities of the country, including Delhi and Ghaziabad. It is from February 8 that the CPSB started recording air quality of the city through an automated station put at Tinbatti More.

On Thursday, the AQI of Siliguri, mentioned in the AQI bulleting released by CPCB, was recorded at 180, which is quite lower that 348, as it was recorded on Wednesday.

The demand raised by the residents is similar to what Darjeeling district Inttuc leaders had proposed to former transport minister Madan Mitra.

They had proposed conversion of the autos from diesel to gas and had also said autos which are 15 years or more old should be scrapped.

"We had placed the proposal and we will pursue it again with state transport minister Subhendu Adhikari," said Arup Ratan Ghosh, president, Darjeeling district Inttuc.

Another resident of the city pointed that the state can use the "Gatidhara" scheme (a scheme to extend financial assistance to buy vehicles for commercial use) to help auto drivers and owners.

"It is obvious that questions would be raised about the employment of owners and drivers of such autos which need to be scrapped. But if the state brings them within the ambit of this scheme, the conversion would be much easier," said a retired state government employee.

The rise in pollution levels have also left many parents worried.

"Our children leave for school in buses, which move through the congested roads of the city. On a number of occasions, my son has told me that he experiences irritation in eyes and at times, feels breathing problems. I have consulted doctors who have mentioned that it is due to excessive smoke emission in the streets. We need alternative roads and may be flyovers, to get out of the situation," said Arati Sharma, a housewife.

The steep rise in vehicular traffic across the city - it is expected to go up after the entire stretch of Asian Highway II, that connects Nepal and Bangladesh borders, turns operational and international traffic moves in - has also left government functionaries to mull over the proposition of increasing green cover in some locations around the city.

Sourav Chakraborty, the chairman of Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority , has planned to do landscaping and increase greenery on both sides of NH-31 between the Bagdogra and Darjeeling More- a congested stretch on the north-western end of Siliguri.

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