Despite repeated directives from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), an institution empowered to perform the functions of the State Pollution Control Board for Delhi, petrol pumps across the national capital are running without the Vapour Recovery System (VRS) and releasing toxic cancer-causing pollutants in the process. VRS is a fast-track method for reducing vapour transmissions.

A senior CPCB official told The Sunday Guardian: “Taking action on the demands raised by environment experts, the CPCB had passed an order in 2015, asking all petrol and diesel pump owners spread across the city to install the VRS, but the pump owners did not pay heed to the order.”

“Last year, the CPCB again issued a reminder to all these pump owners and asked them to comply with its order. The CPCB had also set a time frame to install the VRS, which ended on 31 March 2016, but nothing has happened since then,” said the same CPCB official.

However, these pump owners have their own reason for not installing the VRS, primarily that the technology is costly.

“The CPCB is also exploring ways by which it can force these pump owners to comply with its order and install the VRS,” said the official cited earlier.

At a time when people in the city are faced with rising pollution, environmental experts have once again raised demands for the installation of VRS. According to various reports by environmentalists across the country, the vapours of petrol and diesel are carcinogenic, cause pollution and several diseases apart from cancer and asthma.

Initially, the demand for the installation of VRS was raised after a study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) suggested that fuel vapours are a major source of toxic benzene emissions that make them some of the most lethal contributors to Delhi’s air pollution problem.

Jyotsna Rajan, a researcher associated with the CSE, told The Sunday Guardian: “Fuel vapours are hazardous for people who live within a 1/2-km radius of petrol pumps and they might face several serious health issues.”

“The distinct smell emanating from a petrol station is caused by volatile organic compounds that have emerged as pollutants of the utmost concern in our study. Whenever a vehicle or an underground tank is being filled with fuel, these compounds mix in the atmosphere and cause several serious diseases like cancer and asthma,” Rajan said.

Sujata Sanyal, an environmentalist and a professor of geology at Delhi Universitysaid: “There are around 400 petrol and diesel pumps in the city and the air quality around these fuel stations has been found to be poor. The vapours are also putting to risk the healths of over 6,000 workers involved in operating these fuel pumps, as they are the first to be exposed to these cancer-causing compounds on a daily basis.”

“Like in Western countries, the toxic vapours being emitted from these fuel pumps can be reduced by installing VRS, but the pump owners across the country are reluctant to do so. In fact, fuel supplier firms like Indian Oil and Bharat Petroleum should take the initiative to install the VRS,” Sanyal said.

Besides the CPCB, the Department of Industrial Safety is also responsible for workers’ health at fuel stations and can direct the petrol pumps to limit toxic emissions.

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