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Scrap the Law that Scraps Serviceable Cars! Make Cities Less-Motorised!

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noun: discarded metal for reprocessing; 

verb: discard or remove from service (a redundant, old, or inoperative vehicle, vessel, or machine), especially so as to convert it to scrap metal.

The Problem: Our car will soon be 15 years old. It is excellently maintained; car mechanics at the service centre have repeatedly commented on how much better the engine is than even the newer model. But soon, we may have to send this perfectly serviceable car to be scrapped!


Because the National Green Tribunal has moved a ban on petrol cars older than 15 years.

Such orders by the National Green Tribunal make one ask certain questions.

What is the rationale for deciding on this figure? What difference does it make how old the car is? Rather than fixing any time period, should the Tribunal instead not be focusing on environmental fitness? There are many private car owners who use their vehicle sparingly for neighborhood runs, and use public transport for longer trips. Their vehicles may be in good shape, may have done very less mileage - but, by this yardstick, they would still need to be scrapped. What about retired people, who barely venture out? Their cars too, may be good for many more years. All these people will have to junk their cars; some may not be able to afford new ones.

By unilaterally imposing a ban based on age rather than performance, the Tribunal is not addressing the root problem of pollution due to cars. Ironically, by pushing the sales of more cars, the NGT seems to be aiding, rather than stopping, pollution and environmental degradation. We need to understand that carrying on with the same system of getting from point A to B, is not the solution. Most studies that favour scrapping, calculate the embodied energy of a car solely in terms of its production and assembly—rather than also taking into account the embodied energy of the raw materials for making the components, (steel/plastic, etc.), as well as the emissions caused. That many of these studies are actually funded by automobile manufacturers, is revealing. Scrapping cars also brings in serious problems in treatment and disposal of Solid Waste.

The Solution:

If the NGT is serious about reducing pollution, they should address the root problem of reducing the number of cars on the road, and ensuring that these cars are fit to run. For this, they should ensure the following:

1. Let Environmental Fitness, not age, be the determinant for deciding whether or not one should continue to run one's car.

2. Let the Tribunal Pressurize civic bodies and the government to improve facilities for pedestrians, cycle-rickshaws, and cyclists at a neighbourhood level, so people can walk or cycle to places wherever possible. The first thing to do, is to bring back walkable pavements, and cycle tracks along roads. We need to have a city with lesser motorised vehicles.  We need to retrofit our city to make it a walk-able/cycle-able city. And till that happens we should stop banning private well maintained vehicles from being thrown on the scrap heap.

3. Let the Tribunal task the government to improve and coordinate public transport better, so people can take public transport to work or for longer trips. The idea should not be to trade one car for another, but to reduce dependence on cars, and improve civic conditions, and create more equitable societies.

This will improve the health of Indians (who are increasingly and alarmingly prone to diabetes, cardio-vascular disease and obesity related illnesses) as well as help our society consume—and pollute less—so that our cities are not a jungle of roads, but sanctuaries that support us, along with the richness of plant and animal life of our country.

It can be done–all we need is resolve!



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