By Stuti Shukla
The Indian Express
MUMBAI, India — The decision of the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highway to bring into effect the Bharat Stage IV (Euro IV) emission norms in 13 major cities of India since April 2010 has put the brakes on important acquisitions by the Mumbai Fire Brigade. While 22 of its 56 fire tenders (engines) across 33 fire stations are around 28 years old, the proposal to urgently replace them has been stuck for over two years as major truck manufacturers have not started manufacturing BS-IV vehicles yet.
Municipal rules do not allow a fire engine to be used beyond 15 years, but these 22 fire tenders remain in operation even though they have long outlived their life.
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All fire-fighting vehicles, such as fire tenders, water tankers, command vehicles, control post vehicles, are built on truck chassis. A senior fire department official said of the major truck manufacturing companies in India, such as Tata, Ashok Leyland, Swaraj Mazda, only Tata has recently started manufacturing BS-IV trucks. However, the size specification required by the Fire Brigade is causing problems.
"Tata manufactures two sizes — the smaller one being too small for fire-fighting operations and the larger one being 136 percent more expensive than the current budget sanction of Rs 11 lakh per vehicle," said the official.
As a result, no new vehicle has been acquired since 2010 even as the current engines are rusted and old and in need of urgent replacement to improve fire-fighting activities.
In March 2011, the Fire Brigade approached the Bombay High Court seeking an exemption to the ministry notification and to allow them to purchase BS-III vehicles. However, the court asked the BMC to continue using the existing vehicles until December 2012.
Chief Fire Officer Suhas Joshi said after the court ruling they have no option but to wait till Indian manufacturers start adopting the new emission norms in these 13 cities.
"Most manufacturing units of these companies are in areas other than the 13 cities. Cost-wise, the BS-IV chassis are more expensive and hence they have not yet switched to the new emission norms. Private buyers can buy and get vehicles registered from anywhere they want. But a Mumbai Fire Brigade vehicle can be bought and registered only in Mumbai," said the official.
Largely owing to the absence of acquisitions, the Fire Brigade has been able to utilise only 30 percent of its annual budget allocation for the past two years.
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