New Delhi, March 08 (G’nY News Service): In 80per cent of Indian cities, air pollutant concentrations are well above the prescribed standards. This exposes the resident population to extremely dangerous air pollutant levels resulting in acute and chronic ailments. The impact of pollutants on agriculture, ecology, and the climate has already been well- documented.
Delhi’s air quality is particularly attracting domestic and international attention as the annual averaged concentrations of particulate matter are more than 4 times the prescribed limits and more than 12-15 times the permissible WHO guideline values. Out of more than 6 lakh mortalities attributed to air pollution, thousands occur in Delhi.
The Transport sector is a major contributor to PM2.5 concentrations in Indian cities. Registered vehicles have grown to more than 160 million in India. In Delhi, vehicles have doubled in the last decade. This growth is expected to continue for the next two decades and hence, it is imperative to control emissions from the sector.
For control of vehicular emissions, the Auto Fuel Policy 2002 laid down a road map for introduction of advanced fuel quality and emission norms in India. By 2010, while the whole country moved to BS-III norms, 13 cities (and now more than 50) have moved to BS-IV norms. Since then, there is no advancement on fuel quality and vehicular emission standards, and only recently the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has notified the advanced BS-IV and BS-V standards to be introduced in India in 2017 and 2019, respectively. Lately, MoRTH has announced skipping of BS-V norms to move directly to BS-VI standards.
An analysis by The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI) shows that even with the most conservative emission estimates, PM and NOx levels in India will increase by 2.8 -6.4 times during 2010-2030, in a business as usual scenario.
However, introduction of BS-VI norms can limit the increase to 1.2 – 3.3 times in PM and NOx emissions (Fig. 1). Air quality simulations show that this decrease in emissions can bring significant air quality benefits on a national scale and will result in more than 17000 avoided mortalities annually from 2030 onwards.
Considering the same quality of fuel requirements for BS-V and BS-VI standards (same sulphur content of <10ppm), it makes immense sense to move directly to BS-VI standards and reduce vehicular emissions to minimal levels.
Introduction of ultra low sulphur fuels (less than 10 ppm sulphur) will facilitate the use of after treatment devices (such as diesel particle filters) in new vehicles and also as retrofits for older vehicles already in use. TERI and ICCT analysis have shown the cost-benefits of adoption of these advanced norms for reducing vehicular emissions. The monetized health benefits of advancement to BS-VI norms outweigh the costs of implementation including refinery up gradation and additional costs of controls in vehicles (Fig. 2). The initial costs of refinery up gradation can be met with a slight increase in the fuel price (less than a rupee per litre).
It took a lot of time to spread the supply of BS-VI fuels across the country; this could attribute to lack of clear timelines for implementation. The clear notification on introduction of low sulphur fuels by 2019 should help refineries to plan their activities well ahead in time.
Besides, the readiness of automobile manufacturers is required to provide BS-VI compliant vehicles equipped with customised tail-pipe controls for Indian conditions. There are concerns raised over the applicability of control devices in Indian conditions. An expert group should immediately be set up to not only decide the BS-VI norms but also to customise technologies for achieving these norms for different vehicle categories. Most importantly, the BS-VI vehicular emission norms should be notified immediately to provide sufficient time to automobile manufacturers to upgrade their manufacturing facilities as per the requirements and test the performance of the control devices in laboratory and real conditions.
A tighter vehicle management system is also needed to ensure long term compliance of vehicle emission norms, as also assess the performance of vehicles on roads. Random testing of in-use vehicular models is recommended against norms prescribed at the manufacturing stage for assessing compliance. In case of severe non-compliance by a particular model, further investigations should be carried out to assess possibilities of improvement at the manufacturing stage. The driving cycles used for testing at the manufacturing stage also needs to be looked into.