Clearing the air

the Nepalese government is coming down heavily on polluting automobiles, in a bid to prevent air pollution assuming dangerous proportions. Roughly 100,000 vehicles ply regularly on the streets of Kathmandu and among them are 1,200 diesel tempos, which are regarded as the prime source of air pollution in the valley.

The government has initiated its first round of measures to reduce urban air pollution. For the last two years, vehicular emissions are being checked and green stickers are being given to those whose vehicles clear the checks. Those failing the test are given a red sticker and they cannot come for recheck before a month. "They are not allowed to enter the restricted zones such as Putalisadak, airport, ministries and Singhdurbar," says Romendra Pratap Singh, deputy superintendent of traffic police and in charge of the vehicle emission control program."We had to do it because people started complaining and accusing us of bribery," said Singh.

Only 237 of all the diesel tempos plying Kathmandu's streets have received green stickers. In a similar step, the traffic police checked 166 diesel tempos and all failed the test. "Mechanics are like doctors and they can repair the vehicle temporarily," Singh said. However, when the spot (emission) checks were initiated and issuing of red stickers started, they realised that temporary repairs will not do them any good, he added. If vehicles with red stickers are found plying the restricted zone, they are fined Rs 200. So far 35,112 vehicles have undergone emission tests and 13,438 have got red stickers.

The government has started selling unleaded petrol but there are few buyers. Vehicle owners complain that the government has done nothing to check the quality of fuel supplied and the availability of spare parts.

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