By Arushi Sharma
As Delhi struggles to fight air pollution, the Union government is planning to introduce Bharat Stage-VI (BS-VI) fuel across the national capital region with effect from the 1st of April 2018. On Wednesday, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas told the Supreme Court that the clean fuel will be available in all oil retail outlets in Delhi from that date, which advances the deadline by two years. This affidavit was filed in response to the apex court’s February 5 direction that the Centre must indicate its position on the availability of BS-VI fuel in the city.
What are BS-VI emission norms?
Bharat Stage (BS) is the Indian regulatory pathway for fuel quality and vehicular emission standards. A major feat was accomplished in 2017 when BS-IV grade fuel—a low-lead auto fuel—was successfully introduced across the country. Additionally, the Supreme Court banned the sale and registration of vehicles that were non-compliant with BS-IV norms.
Following this, the government announced its plan to roll out BS-VI grade compliant fuel—leapfrogging one intermediary level—in order to match international standards. Modelled after European fuel emission standards, the new norms were slated to be in place from April 1, 2020. Furthermore, investments amounting to Rs 30,000 crore were made to upgrade the production of BS-VI in government-owned refineries.
According to its Press Information Bureau release, the Petroleum Ministry is set to accelerate its efforts and seeks “to reduce vehicular emissions and improve fuel efficiency with an aim to reduce the carbon footprints and keep a healthy environment.” This decision was made in consultation with Oil Marketing Companies, including Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd, Indian Oil Corp. Ltd, Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd, Reliance Industries Ltd, and Essar Oil Ltd.
However, the statement does not provide any information for automakers regarding the sale of BS-VI vehicles in Delhi. The auto-manufacturers had already informed the court of technological problems that are preventing them from converting their vehicles to meet the 2020 deadline.
How can this help reduce pollution?
The increase in the supply of BS-VI transportation fuel has come amid growing environmental and health concerns due to the poor air quality in the Nation Capital Territory. The rising levels of pollutants such as PM2.5 and PM10 have been particularly alarming.This is evidenced by the Global Burden of Disease Study, conducted in Seattle, which estimated that more than five lakh premature deaths in India in 2013 were attributable to fine particulate matter.
Apart from controlling emissions, the BS-VI norms are also aimed at reducing carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides, which are highly reactive and poisonous gases. A BS-IV compliant vehicle running on BS-VI grade fuels would emit 50% less particulate matter, as reported by Autocar India. Moreover, BS-VI fuels have about four times less sulphur content than current fuels.
Although it is clear that increasing the supply of cleaner fuels is a step towards lowering emissions, the long-term goal should be to seek an optimum reduction in air pollution. This would require efforts in all areas, not just in vehicular pollution. Building technological interventions for small-scale industries needs to be looked into, as well as strengthening impact assessments at the regional level. More importantly, the scale of the current air pollution problem demands a systematic and well-coordinated approach with multi-sectoral collaborations between government agencies, corporations, and civil society.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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