Desperate measures

| Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on November 16, 2017

Simply bringing forward the deadline for BS VI fuel norms won’t solve Delhi’s bad air problem

Anyone who steps into the streets of Delhi would understand why the petroleum ministry has taken the drastic step of bringing forward the timetable for the launch of the stringent BS VI (Bharat Stage VI) fuel norms for the capital. Delhi’s air quality, during the last two weeks, visibly deteriorated and is much worse than last year’s. As such, desperate remedies were called for and they didn’t seem forthcoming from the Delhi government which has given up even on the Odd-Even Scheme which it introduced with great fanfare last year, or from any of the other authorities that control the Capital. Unusually, the initiative to improve air quality came not from the environment ministry, the guardian of all matters environmental, but from the petroleum ministry. And, amazingly, this scheme contemplates Delhi as a BS VI island in a country that will still be following BS IV norms.

There are, inevitably, several angles that have to be tackled for the tough BS VI norms to be entirely effective. The changes announced this week affect only fuel quality norms for Delhi which will now come into effect from April 1, 2018. The automobile companies say they are racing against the clock to make the engine changes needed for BS VI and these will only be ready by 2020 — this itself is a tough target as India is leapfrogging from BS IV to BS VI and the auto companies say they have been presented with a mammoth task. On the question of how much emission levels will improve if BS VI fuel is used in older vehicles, a government study recently pointed out that fuel quality has a direct link to emissions. The study added that a switch to BS VI-compliant fuels would be beneficial even in older vehicles. The BS VI norms stipulate 10ppm sulphur compared to 50ppm sulphur under BS IV. The government-run oil companies will need to make investments at the Mathura and Panipat refineries to supply the region with the BS VI fuel.

Delhi currently has over 10 million vehicles registered with the transport department. In addition, it’s reckoned that roughly 5.7 lakh cars enter the city every day and around 11 per cent of these are the more polluting diesel SUVs. One study has, in fact, shown that vehicles entering from outside the city create over 20 per cent of the particulate load in the city. The Government’s also hoping to introduce BS VI norms in the National Capital Region — which includes huge satellite cities such as Gurgaon, Noida, Faridabad and Ghaziabad — by April 1, 2019 but that requires coordination with surrounding states. A regional approach is also needed to tackle the issue of stubble burning in neighbouring states, as well as enforcing tougher rules on construction and waste management. With political parties still playing the blame game, that kind of concerted action looks unlikely.

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Published on November 16, 2017
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