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BW Businessworld

Inside The Exhaust Pipe

A robust, well connected transport system could provide some relief to the city immersed in haze

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The Indian automotive industry, which is already complying with the current emission norms, is now hoping for the implementation of vehicle scrappage schemes that will take around millions of old and polluting vehicles off the roads from Delhi and the NCR. The sector will be leapfrogging from BS IV to BS VI emission norms by 2020. The PV segment, which has always been at the receiving end from all quarters, is already obligated to switch over to all-electric by 2030 as per the government’s recent mandate. Environmentalists are however, pushing for a complete ban on new diesel engine cars in the city.

According to a study by IIT Kanpur, the biggest contributors to Delhi’s air pollution is road dust that accounts for about 35 per cent of tiny particles known as particulate matter (PM) 2.5 in the air, followed by vehicles at 20 per cent. The study also dwelt on other unique combustion sources like industries, power plants, waste burning, cooking gas, incinerators, etc., which are contributing both to particulate matter as well as towards different gases.

Vishnu Mathur, Director General, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), says, “The real culprits are the farm fires, which happen during winters. The automotive industry has always been at the receiving end because of recurrent ad hoc decisions like diesel engine ban, etc. Now thankfully people are looking at a larger canvas of the entire problem. So, to curb vehicular emissions, the ideal way is to take old vehicles off the roads and come up with something like ‘Cash for Clunkers’ or a ‘Fleet Modernisation’ scheme. Containing BS IV vehicles would be a regressive step.”

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of India has directed the government and EPCA to come up with a comprehensive action plan for each and every pollution source. 

Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment says, “When the levels (of pollution) are high, you have to take stringent action on all levels of pollution. Some steps have been taken penalising road construction agencies for uncovered roads. The parking charges have been increased four times so that public transport should be intensified. But not a single bus has been bought in the last three years, which is a matter of concern.”

Roychowdhury’s concern is valid. The number of registered vehicles in Delhi has already crossed 1 crore mark in 2017. While the number of buses has significantly declined from 2007 to 2016, the number of taxis (mostly run on CNGs) has doubled during the same period. There is more than 70 per cent increase in the number of two-wheelers, four-wheelers and goods vehicles during the same period.

Odd-Even Plan On Hold

The Delhi government recently put on hold the implementation of the odd-even plan. However, what the city requires is an overall action plan, with an emphasis on sprucing up the public transport system. As Roychowdhury says, “We need to scale up and integrate our public transport system.” 

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