BS-VI rules: Superior fuel may not clear smog-hit Delhi as long as vehicles continue to ply on BS-IV engines

Is there any miracle in the offing in getting BS-VI rules two years early in smog-ridden Delhi? On 15 November, the government advanced introduction of ultra-clean Euro-VI grade petrol and diesel in Delhi by two years to April 2018 in a bid to fight air pollution that has reached at alarming levels. India had in 2015 decided to leapfrog straight to Euro-VI emission norm compliant petrol and diesel from April 2020 from current Euro-IV grade, according to a PTI report.

Making BS-VI rules early is also indicative of a regressive mindset that looks at vehicle owners as ‘rich’ when cars have become a necessity, said sector experts. “It is a socialistic way of thinking that owning cars is rich. Cars are a very small part of the cause of pollution in Delhi,” they said.

But is vehicular pollution the main cause of air pollution in Delhi? An IIT-Kanpur study in 2015 found that the biggest contributor to pollution in the capital is road dust that accounts for about 35 percent of tiny particles known as PM 2.5. Vehicle emissions account for an average of 25 percent PM 2.5 levels, going up to 36 percent in the winters, according to an Economic Times report.

Representational image. Reuters

Image courtesy: Reuters

The government is right in making Euro-VI grade petrol for Delhi but it is something that was to be rolled out anyways in 2020. “Making it seem that it is fast-forwarding the implementation two years early is a good media headline grabbing strategy. Even in 2020 when the government was to roll it out, it wasn’t going to be implemented all at once across the country. That is simply not possible,” pointed out R C Bhargava, Chairman, Maruti Suzuki. All that has happened now is that the government is giving BS-VI grade fuel first in Delhi and it may take two years to give it to the rest of the country.

To take full advantage of this move, says the Centre for Science and Environment, vehicle technology has to move to BS-VI. However, the government has remained silent about when the fuel will be available to the rest of the country. Automobile companies do not make vehicles in isolation for a city and to expect BS-VI compliant vehicles to be out in Delhi by 2018 would be foolish. However, a PTI report mentioned that automobile manufacturers said Euro-VI grade vehicles will not hit the roads before 2020 but the advancement gives them confidence to make investments in manufacturing such vehicles.

Benefits of BS-VI fuel
The Centre for Science and Environment says BS-VI fuel will bring down sulphur by 5 times from the current BS-IV levels –- this is a whopping 80 percent reduction and makes this fuel extremely clean. It will improve emissions from the existing fleet, even from the older vehicles on road, while allowing more advanced emissions control systems to be fitted in BS-VI vehicles when they begin to roll.

“With substantially cleaner fuel emissions, control system in on-road fleet will improve and give some emissions benefits,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director, CSE and head of the organisation’s air pollution campaign.

There can be only some emissions benefits with this move of the government, say sector experts unless a few major changes are brought about in vehicles plying on the road.

For starters, the government should ban BS-I and BS-II compliant vehicles from plying on the roads, suggests Vishnu Mathur, director-general of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.

Clear up the mounds of mud collected on roadsides because of construction work and digging of roads that emit a lot dust, says Bhargava of Maruti. “There is solid municipal waste too that pollutes the air.” A bench headed by National Green Tribunal (NGT) chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar imposed a ban on the entry of diesel trucks more than ten years old and said that no vehicle from outside or within Delhi will be permitted to transport any construction material. “Enforce that ban,” urged Bhargava.

BS-VI grade fuel can be used in existing vehicles. Similarly, when the government came out with BS-IV grade fuel, it could be used in BS-I, BS-II and BS-III vehicles. “Will superior grade fuel alone ensure lesser air pollution? Why is there no data or study to support that? Also, can the authorities guarantee that BS-VI will lead to better air quality,” asks S P Singh of All India Tyre Dealers Federation. He suggests that the government should improve city transport by going in for electric vehicles. For long hauls, he suggest government and automobile manufacturers invest in liquefied natural gas (LNG) which is cleaner and cheaper than compressed natural gas (CNG). CNG can be used for buses, cars and two-wheelers, said Singh.

Published Date: Nov 16, 2017 15:12 PM | Updated Date: Nov 16, 2017 18:11 PM

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