As lockdowns ease and people and vehicular mobility on the roads return to normalcy in India, the familiar and vexed question of pollution in our cities has resurfaced again. Despite considerable efforts on the part of the authorities and environmental advocacy groups, our cities, especially the big metro cities, remain as polluted as ever. Hosting some of the most polluted cities globally, and in large numbers to add, India has been repeatedly ranked as one of the most polluted countries in the world in recent years.
While some factors would contribute more to the pollution of a city as opposed to others, per the level of industrial activity, the number of active power plants, volume of vehicular movement, amount of residential and commercial combustion, and extent of waste burning – there would be a set of common and lasting reasons responsible for persisting pollution in our cities. As such, burning of petrol, diesel, coal, biomass and waste along with re-suspended dust has been a recurring source of our city pollution woes.
And of the aforementioned factors, according to several studies, vehicular emissions have constituted as one of the leading sources of steadily deteriorating air quality in Indian cities. The heavy concentration of vehicles, the relatively high motor vehicles to population ratios, and the proliferating number of older vehicles in active use despite regulations, and most of all, keeping petrol and diesel as core fuel for our transportation systems have been some of the major contributors to this unceasing tide of air pollution in Indian cities.
“Because we have not been able to address the vehicular pollution part of the larger pollution problem in our cities, we have failed to make any considerable breakthrough on the urban pollution issue confronting the country. The continued encouragement and usage of petrol and diesel in our vehicles, which number over 300 millions including two-wheelers, without giving due policy attention to alternative and cleaner fuels such as auto LPG has been a perpetual roadblock to resolving our city’s poor air quality and pollution issues. Research tells us that four-wheelers in Delhi are responsible for nearly 20% of the emission from the vehicular fleet, which amounts to about 4% of the total atmospheric load in the city, the capital and a leading metro city. Although it augurs well from an economic standpoint, yet a recent research projecting petrol consumption to rise by 14% next year and diesel by 10% in the country again lays bare the inexplicable policy persistence with petrol and diesel, the two most prominent sources of vehicular pollution in Indian cities,” said Mr. Suyash Gupta, Director General, Indian Auto LPG Coalition.
“At a time when the country is stumbling through possibly one of the worst public health crises in history, with an epidemic primarily impacting lung and respiratory systems, instead of policy continuity with petrol and diesel, the government must think imaginatively and employ creative solutions. An immediate policy push to auto LPG substituting for the toxic gas-emitting petrol and diesel, shall not only serve to contain the health fallout of noxious and life-threatening emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, oxides of sulphur and the particulate matter, among several others, that impinge on the health of our city-dwellers, it would also curtail the carbon-footprint of vehicular movement thereby helping India get closer to meeting its climate change and global warming commitments in the context of Paris Agreement. While the government’s initiatives on ethanol-blended petrol, scrappage policy and green tax are appreciable, the urgency to introduce and mandate auto LPG as a full-fledged vehicular fuel country-wide can’t be overlooked any more. As such, the related policy corrections such as relaxing of Type Approval Norms for LPG conversion kits and reducing of GST on those kits must be vigorously pursued with a sense of immediacy. The recent emission tests confirming lower tailpipe emissions from auto LPG than even BS-VI compliant petrol must fuel that sense of immediacy,” further added Mr. Gupta.