The Delhi government might have banned crackers on Diwali, but hasn’t quite shown the same alacrity in figuring out other ways to fight pollution.
The Delhi government has used only 1.6% of the Rs. 883 crore “environmental cess” that it has collected over the last four years to fight pollution, an RTI by the Sunday Guardian has revealed. The environmental cess was collected by the Delhi government as part of environmental compensation fee from polluting trucks that have been entering Delhi, and from every litre of diesel sold in the national capital.
However, the Delhi government has spent just a tiny fraction of this money towards taking measures to stop the spread of pollution in the city, Over the last four years, the Delhi government has spent just Rs 15.58 crore towards environmental protection and cleaning the air.
The environmental cess adds up to a substantial sum: the Delhi government collected over Rs. 503 crore as environmental cess in 2017, while it collected around Rs. 228 crore in 2018, and over Rs. 110 crore in 2019. Till September this year, the Delhi government collected around Rs. 4 crore as environmental cess.
But even as the AAP government has collected the environment cess, it hasn’t been using it to help the environment. In 2017, the AAP govt hadn’t spent a single penny from the cess, while it 2018, it had spent Rs 15 lakh in for improvement and maintenance of NMV (Non-Motor Vehicle) lanes, and Rs 43 lakh for deployment of civil defence volunteers as marshals in the city. In 2017, the AAP government had promised to bring in Hydrogen powered buses as public transport bus in the city for cleaner transport. However, according to the RTI reply, the Delhi government has spent just Rs. 15 crore since 2019 to procure these buses. Instead, the AAP govt spent around Rs. 265 crore as part of the payment towards the development of the Delhi-Meerut RRTS (Rapid Rail Transport System) from the cess.
This issue had been raised previously in 2017, when the AAP government had not spent a single paisa of the environment cess it had collected. Back then, the Delhi Congress Chief Ajay Maken had attacked the Kejriwal govt for being unable to use the funds. “Instead of using the money which is lying idle, he is busy aiming at other state governments and the Centre instead of doing his bit.” He had further said that Kejriwal could have purchased road vacuum cleaners, as the dust “is the single-biggest contributory factor for air pollution” in Delhi. The Delhi government had then blamed the Centre for being unable to spend the funds.