Even as northern India grapples with the problem of air pollution, Bihar is proposing to ban all state-owned vehicles that are older than 15 years.

News agency Press Trust of India reported that the Bihar government has proposed a ban on the movement of state-owned vehicles that are more than 15 years old across the state.

A government official told Mint that the state cabinet is expected to give its approval to the proposal on Wednesday.

The restriction has also been extended to commercial vehicles, but only for the Patna metropolitan area, which would make it the first non-metro city to come under such a ban.

Along with northern India, Bihar too has been engulfed by toxic air post festivals such as Diwali and Chhath, coupled with vehicular and construction-related pollution.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) for Patna touched the “severe" category at 414 on Tuesday, according to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data.

While private vehicles have been exempt from the ban, vehicle owners will have to get fresh pollution tests done and obtain certificates. Towards this, an intensive drive will be carried out by the Bihar government.

The ban on old state-owned vehicles will create opportunities for the government to buy electric vehicles as well as those that meet Bharat Stage VI standards, experts said.

According to Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment, the state government should go a step further and ensure that the new procurements are linked with advanced solution standards such as Bharat Stage VI emission norms that will become mandatory from April next year.

“It is also an opportunity to use advanced and zero emission technology such as electric vehicles," she said.

Other than Patna, which is a non-metro city, similar bans are in force in the metros of Delhi and Kolkata. Kolkata restricted movement of commercial vehicles older than 15 years in 2008, while petrol vehicles older than 15 years and diesel vehicles older than 10 years were ordered off the streets of the national capital region in 2015.

Roy Chowdhury welcomed the Bihar government’s move.

“There is also a need for a proper scrappage and an end-of-life regulation for vehicles. That can then determine (on a case to case basis) how the phasing out of vehicles should happen," she said.

Last month, the road transport and highways ministry issued draft guidelines to set up vehicle scrapping centres across the country, a move aimed at protecting the environment and promoting legally backed dismantling and scrapping industry. Besides, a scrapping policy is also under consideration.

“We need proper infrastructure to scrap vehicles by minimizing environmental impact. You need end-of-life regulation, improve recyclability of the material used to produce a vehicle but that will be meant for the newer one," Roy Chowdhury added.

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