August 15 was to be the scheduled date when emission testing for vehicles becomes compulsory, but it looks as if there will be a postponement. The delay comes despite the Supreme Court’s urging for a speedy implementation of compulsory emission testing in order to tackle the growing air pollution problem.
Commissioner of Motor Traffic B. Wijayaratne, whose responsibility it is to ensure that vehicles undergo compulsory testing before the annual vehicle revenue licences are issued, says he hopes to launch the scheme by October and have it fully operational across the country by February 2009.
In July last year, two private companies – CleanCo Lanka Ltd and Laugf EcoSri – were each given government contracts to build 16 permanent testing centres and 10 mobile testing facilities. CleanCo has already built 13 permanent testing centres and 10 of the required mobiles, while Laugf EcoSri has so far completed only its main testing centre, at Miriswatte, Gampaha. A CleanCo spokesman said its remaining three testing centres would be ready by August 10. According to Mr. Wijeratne, CleanCo has already obtained the relevant certifications and approvals to operate centres already completed.
The Air Resource Management Centre of the Ministry of Environment will be responsible for overseeing the entire scheme.
On July 15, Transport Minister Dallas Alahapperuma and Environment Minister Champika Ranawaka ceremonially launched the testing scheme when they declared open the first two testing centres, Laugf’s at Mahabage and CleanCo’s at Miriswatte.
According to unconfirmed reports, the delays at Laugf have been caused by a financial crisis within the Laugf group.
When asked about progress made so far on the building of the testing centres, and why there was a delay, Laugf EcoSri chairman W. K. H. Wegapitiya said he questioned the number of centres supposedly completed by the rival firm, adding that he believed the firm had completed only three of its centres. Although Mr. Wegapitiya promised to get back to The Sunday Times after speaking to the Motor Traffic Commissioner, there has been no follow-up call so far.
It is understood that CleanCo, which has so far invested close to Rs. 500 million in the venture, is facing difficulties because of the delay in launching the scheme. According to company sources, CleanCo gets only about five to six customers a day at each centre. The number is not expected to increase significantly until testing becomes compulsory, they said.
Meanwhile, the Motor Traffic Commissioner Mr. Wijeratne said he could not make the scheme compulsory until all the required centres were in operation.
Asked why penalties for delays were not being imposed, as applicable under the contracts, Mr. Wijayaratne said it was a matter that had to be sorted out amicably, with more time given to the parties involved. He said it would not be appropriate to invite a third party to enter the scheme overnight.
Mr. Wijayaratne said that as 90 per cent of this year’s vehicle revenue licences have already been issued, it would make more sense to start the testing programme with next year’s round of licences.
The Western Province alone has close to one million registered vehicles.