WHO guidelines violated in Indian cities, air pollution

Among concerns sidetracked in India are quality education, progress, population control, poverty, and many others. Fuel quality also features in this list. Vehicular emission norms should be made stringent and adhered to if the government is serious about curbing growing vehicular emissions and poor air quality.

Indian auto industry‘Reducing Vehicular Emissions and Improving Fuel Efficiency’ workshop was organised by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in collaboration with International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), held discussions on emission control and improving transport sector efficiency. Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation supported the event.

R K Pachauri, Director General, TERI referred to unconstrained growth of motor vehicles in recent years as a major source of pollution, which adversely affects air quality and emission levels. he emphsised the India needs to address these issues with a sense of urgency. Involvement of scientists and experts from other countries helps develop a roadmap for India to limit negative impacts of Indian vehicular transportation.

S Sundar, Distinguished Fellow, TERI spoke of India’s rapid motorising. Exponential growth in vehicles here has led to increase in criteria pollutants like PM 2.5 and NOX. Aprt from playing truant on human health of those who are most exposed to vehicular pollution, India’s dependency on oil imports has increased raising concerns about energy security.

India can’t be termed a modern automobile nation merely on the basis of production increase. Current situation necessitates urgent adherence yo prescribed emission standards through fuel efficient vehicles. India should move towards Euro 6 norms once 10 PPM Ultra Low Sulphur Fuel is available.

Currently, penetration of BS IV fuels in India is at 24% and BS IV grade high speed diesel (HSD) is 16%, despite having been introduced in major cities here back in 2010-11. In reference to diesel low penetration, BS III vehicles being registered in the periphery of designated BS IV cities acts as a deterrent. BS IV vehicles (especially heavy duty vehicles) are more expensive and BS III fuel was cheaper.

Auto Fuel Vision Committee’s roadmap suggests that retail price of BS III fuel should be made equal to BS IV fuel. Quality differential in price between both fuel grades should be 75 paise. Excess collected by re-pricing BS III fuel would be 75 paise per litre, and the amount collected should be accrued as cess to OIDB.

Money collected as “high sulphur cess” will rapidly decline as the BS IV 3-phase rollout is completed in early 2017. If price differential is made effective from July 2014, total collections before BS IV full rollout will stand at Rs 10,000 crore. The best situation however would be rolling out BSIV at one go within a year. However, limitations thwart such an attempt as even if refineries work to full capacity, it would take much longer to completely switch to BS IV output.

Keeping in mind the pace at which things are implemented in India, changeover to BS IV will take a couple of years, and that to BS V may extend to 2025 and beyond. Changeover to BS V remains on course to be rolled out in India between April 2019-2020.

Focus on severely polluted urban air quality remains a priority as more than 80% of Indian cities where air quality monitoring was carried out reported particulate matter concentrations higher than prescribed standard. World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines are grossly violated in many Indian cities.

Dr. Michael Walsh, ICCT Founding Chairman pointed to widespread adverse impact on public health with with upward of 600,000 people dying pre-maturely each year in India resulting from of exposure to outdoor air pollution. It is imperative that India makes headway in cleaning up vehicles and fuels here.

Energy efficiency in transport sector needs constant monitoring. Though fuel efficiency standards for cars have been notified recently, implementation is another story. Heavy duty vehicles (HDV) sector play a majority role in overall fuel consumption, and regulation through introduction of fuel efficiency standards is suggested.