Vehicle ban to ease city pollution

More than 60,000 ageing vehicles in eastern India's biggest city have been banned from the streets over the weekend in a bid to ease the growing air pollution problem.

Owners of commercial vehicles, from motorised rickshaws to taxis, were given a one-year deadline by the Calcutta High Court that ended on Sunday. However, a number of transport groups have appealed the decision to India's Supreme Court, which is likely to hear the matter on Tuesday.

Subhas Dutta, an activist whose legal battle against polluters in the city brought about the court order, described it as a green-letter day for the city.

At least 60,000 vehicles, such as buses, taxis and trucks, will be phased out, while efforts are being made to encourage new rickshaws and taxis to use compressed natural gas as fuel.

A survey conducted by private environmental group, Saviour and Friend of Environment, revealed that the ban had already resulted in an improvement in Calcutta's air quality.

Readings from busy area of the city showed that hydrocarbon levels had fallen by more than 50% while the oxygen content had gone up by more than 15%, according to the survey commissioned by The Times of India newspaper.

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