Spirit of law set aside on air pollution
It is possibly the proposed enactment of stricter law enforcement with regard to air pollution that has sparked off the ongoing debate between the diesel and petrol engines as far as pollution is concerned.
Dr. Atukorale (The Island 03-02-03) tried to make a point about the poisonous nature of the colourless, odourless CO produced in emissions from petrol engines as against the emissions from diesel engines containing visible and coloured particulate matter (HC) also a health hazard. Mr. E. Stevens (The Island 19-02-03) tries to show that diesel emissions are far more harmful (carcinogenic) than what comes from petrol engines based on his own reasoning. So the debate goes on.
But what we who are also educated enough to understand and also "see-through" in the fruitless debate is that both forms of pollution are harmful and should be minimised. Hence whatever law is applied, it must not only be equally applied to both petrol as well as diesel engines (including the railway engine) but also to generators belonging to private and the CEB.
Again the successive governments are also responsible for the proliferation of diesel vehicles on our roads. Every government circular on importation of vehicles encouraged diesels by giving higher cubic capacities and higher CIF values for the diesels. So the blame should not go entirely to the motorists.
Referring to the ongoing debate, what is visible is that each group is trying to exempt its members from the "smoke meter tests" by directing the venom on the other group.
Still more hilarious is something that a top official claimed at a seminar held recently at the BMICH on January 21 and 22, 2003. His claim (unsupported) is that the buses are less polluting than vans. Even to a man of average intelligence it is obvious that an attempt is being made to exempt buses from this test, knowing very well that a strike from buses can set the whole "smoke test" in smoke so to say. So it is best to give some excuse and go for vans which mostly belong to helpless and less powerful people.
What more, it is also clear that this law will never apply to vehicles belonging to the Army, Navy, Police, Air Force, Ministries, Departments, Corporations, Boards, PSD, PMSD, MSDs ad infinitum which monopolise our roads making a total mockery of the law with so many exceptions. The only way out is for others to find a good lawyer with public interest litigation background to challenge this discriminatory and unfair application of the law, if and when it is applied in such a discriminatory manner.Our globe trotting public officials who attend international conferences such as the Rio Conference, the Johannesburg conference etc. pick up bits and pieces of whatever they can understand and try to apply them in Sri Lanka in an unpractical manner twisting the hands of the minister to get such legislation passed. It is a pity that no one wanted to go to Italy to study the environment damage from the Mount Etna eruption and bring about other laws to Sri Lanka which we can easily do without.
Environment should definitely be protected but certainly not in a slimy manner by people with dubious intensions where making money can be the ultimate aim. Let us take an example from the spot fines imposed for traffic offences about which readers regularly express their horrible experiences through the print media.
Let us apply the smoke test on buses first in an honest and transparent manner.
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