Smog in Delhi

The Supreme Court of India has been considering a case of thirty percent green tax on production of diesel vehicles in the country’s capital, New Delhi. This is an attempt to reduce the pollution by checking the number of diesel run cars since they emit more toxic emissions than petrol run cars. (1 kg of diesel burnt under ideal conditions will produce 2.65 kg of CO2 and 1 kg of petrol will produce 2.3 kg of CO2.). Earlier this year, WHO reclassified diesel exhaust as a Class I carcinogen (cancer causing). In effect, it slotted diesel exhaust in the same category as deadly substances such as arsenic, asbestos and tobacco. The air quality in Delhi has been deteriorating. A few weeks back, the level of PM 2.5 pollutants (PM stands for particulate matter and it is a mixture of solids and liquids floating in the air), which are most harmful to the lungs, reached 999, which is 16 times the safe limit of 60. Children. A study found that half of Delhi’s schoolchildren, who are most vulnerable to this pollution, had stunted lung development and would never completely recover.

The effectiveness though of levying green taxes is debatable. The proponents argue that it is the most cost effective method to discourage the buying of diesel cars. It generates additional revenue for the government which can be invested in subsidizing petrol cars. Green taxes levied in Ireland showed a 15 percent drop in emissions since 2008. The opponents argue that green taxes hamper employment in the car manufacturing industries because of a fall in demand. Others argue that due to the high dependency on transport, the amount of reduction in emissions is trivial compared to the costs involved in implementation, especially in a city like Delhi which has an estimated population of 18.6 million. Also, a large proportion of green taxes are passed down on consumers, thus harming low income groups who depend mainly on cheaper diesel run cars. It is now the decision of the Supreme Court to weigh out the costs and benefits and give the appropriate verdict.

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