दिल्ली समाचार

SC panel against dilution of policy on paid parking

COURTESY HT FEB 17

Sweta Goswami sweta.goswami@hindustantimes.
SC panel against dilution of policy on paid parking
Free parking in residential areas of the Capital will make the policy toothless, says authority
NEW DELHI: Authorities must charge a fee for parking of vehicles in residential neighbourhoods, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) told the Supreme Court on Friday, taking a stand that’s opposed to the Delhi government’s.

In a report it submitted to the SC, the EPCA also recommended that the apex court ask the Delhi government to notify the Delhi Maintenance and Management of Parking Rules, 2017, “without any modifications or deletions at the earliest”.

The report by the Sc-mandated authority comes in the backdrop of the top court’s criticism of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government of Delhi for repeated delays in enforcing the parking policy, which it said was crucial to decongest the national capital and to combat air pollution.

After the Delhi government told the Supreme Court earlier this month that it would remove the clause of enforcing a parking fee in residential neighbourhoods, the top court had asked EPCA to hold a meeting of stakeholders and submit recommen-

dations on the matter. The court is scheduled to hear the case again on Monday.

The policy was first proposed in 2017 and a final draft was ready by January 2018. Since

then, it has been going back and forth between transport minister Kailash Gahlot’s office and other departments of the Delhi government. In its report, EPCA said it is of the “strong view” that deletion of provisions concerning residential parking will make the parking policy “toothless” and “defeat the very purpose” of the upcoming rules.

“As rates are enhanced in commercial areas, people will park in residential areas… If the rules are enacted [without deletion] then residents will benefit, as demarcation of legal parking areas and parking charges will help contain the spillover of vehicles from already saturated neighbouring areas as well as from nearby commercial areas that have priced parking. Mixed land-use areas are particularly vulnerable to this problem,” said the nine-page report, accessed by Hindustan Times.

It also reasoned that parking pressure in residential areas “has become a serious law and order problem.” Around 250 calls are made to the Delhi police everyday about brawls over parking.

Apart from charging a fee for stationing a car on public land in residential neighbourhoods, the proposed parking policy also states that those who park outside the approved stilt parking of their houses will have to pay twice the normal rate.

The pollution control body also rejected Delhi government’s decision to include the state transport minister as the head of the Apex Monitoring Committee (AMC) for parking, saying that setting the base parking fee was a technical exercise and does not involve a policy decision.

As per the rules, the AMC is to be chaired by the Delhi chief secretary. Apart from having a final say on all parking fees across the city, the committee is also supposed to monitor the implementation of parking rules by various agencies.

According to EPCA, all stakeholders – Delhi traffic police, municipal corporations, Union ministry of housing and urban affairs, and resident welfare associations (RWAS) – agreed that ownership of multiple vehicles by households must be discouraged and public transport encouraged.

It said the number of taxis in the city is rising and their drivers may park the vehicles in residential areas, leading to more congestion.

“…there are roughly 2.5 lakh taxis registered and plying under Uber and Ola. These vehicles will be parked ‘free’ in the residential areas if there is no management and demarcation of parking in these areas,” EPCA said, adding that such regulations are essential for pedestrians to reclaim public space.

Transport minister Kailash Gahlot, who had asked for the change in the policy, did not respond to calls or messages. Delhi government officials said the decision now lies with the SC.

“EPCA can only recommend to the SC. The government will put its stand [before the court] in Monday’s hearing and it is for the SC to decide,” an official said on condition of anonymity.

An expert concurred with EPCA’S view, saying the annual demand for additional parking space in Delhi is equivalent to as many as 310 football fields, which is the highest among all major cities in India.

“Residential parking is in urgent need of a policy that can bring some sort of a structure to the whole practice. One of the best ways to regulate parking, as is globally believed too, is ‘pricing’. Introducing a parking fee in residential areas is quite a doable concept,” said Amit Bhatt, director of integrated urban transport at World Resources Institute India, who was part of the expert team roped in by the government to ideate on the parking rules.

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