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Taxing for a Greener Mumbai
Mumbai's streets are filled with heavily polluting older vehicles. Now the government has given a disincentive to drive these gas-guzzlers. Photo via Jason Turner.

Mumbai's streets are filled with heavily polluting older vehicles. Now the government has given a disincentive to drive these gas-guzzlers. Photo via Jason Turner.

At the beginning of this month, the Maharashtra government approved a “green tax” on older, less efficient vehicles, as the Hindu reported. The tax affects commercial vehicles over eight years old and private vehicles over 15 years old.

Around 2.1 million vehicles — 600,000 commercial vehicles and 1.5 million private vehicles — will be taxed in a range of Rs.750 to Rs.3,500 (about US$16 to US$75) every five years.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said the tax is meant to discourage people from using older, less efficient vehicles — and hence cut pollution.

The government expects to earn Rs. 1.25 billion (about US$26.8 million) annually through the green tax. This revenue, if used as planned, will go toward “pollution control measures, clean energy and strengthening public infrastructure.”

Transport officials, who had suggested the measure in April, are reportedly pleased. One official said, “Based on a petition filed by a citizen’s forum, the Supreme Court had directed governments to make vehicle owners take precautions or pay for the pollution caused because of their cars.  Vehicles manufactured before 1995 are not fit to fulfill the criterion of Bharat IV – the standard set for vehicles to control pollution.” Bharat IV standards went into effect in April 2010.

The new tax would be written into the Mumbai Motor Vehicle Tax Act of 1958.

Other Indian states — including Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh — already have similar taxes in place.

In addition, new regional and sub-regional transport offices are reportedly being set up around greater Mumbai, to take pressure off of the existing two offices in Mumbai and Thane.

Dario Hidalgo, senior transport engineer with EMBARQ (the producer of this blog), said the tax sounds like a very progressive move on the part of the Maharashtra government. Still, he says, it would be more effective if the tax were focused on emissions, rather than vehicle age alone. After all, as Dario points out, some new vehicles can actually pollute more heavily than older vehicles — and they should pay for it.

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