Volkswagen emission scandal comes to India: All you need to know

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has penalised car manufacturer Volkswagen with a “conservative” fine of Rs 171.34 crore, for contributing to air pollution in Delhi through excess nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and for causing extensive health damage.

The four-member NGT panel constituted in November brought the first official indictment against Volkswagen in India, the latest country to press charges amidst the ongoing global emission scandal. The company has long since been accused of flouting environmental norms via a cheat device in its diesel-run cars, to manipulate emission results.

3.27 lakh Volkswagen cars in India were found to have that cheat device last year. According to an NDTV report, Volkswagen India contested NGT’s recommendation, claiming that none of its vehicles have violated the emissions norms prescribed under Bharat Stage 4 (BS-IV).

NGT panel’s report

The expert committee comprised the Director of Automotive Research Association of India, Rashmi Urdhwareshe, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute’s chief scientist, Nitin Labhsetwar, Ministry of Heavy Industries’ Director, Ramakant Singh, and Central Pollution Control Board Member Secretary Prashant Gargava. They filed the report on the orders of NGT Chairperson, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, who already slapped Volkswagen with a fine of Rs 100 crore to be deposited to the Central Pollution Control Board last year.

Using Delhi as the base city to calculate the damages, the latest report filed on December 24 concluded that Volkswagen cars released approximately 48.678 tonnes of NOx in 2016, according to PTI who has reviewed the document. Their report reiterated that “longer exposures to elevated concentrations of NO2 may contribute to the development of asthma and potentially increase susceptibility to respiratory infections”. 

The matter is set to come up for hearing before the tribunal on Thursday.

What is Dieselgate?

The German company has been facing similar class action lawsuits in several countries, with 370,000 of its diesel-run models under investigation in Europe itself. The 2015 global emission scandal popularly referred to as Dieselgate, found the Wolfsburg company guilty of manipulating emissions-related software on vehicles with engines, including the popular Polo.

Investigators alleged that the diesel engines were intentionally programmed to meet US regulatory standards but actually emit up to 40 times more Nitrous Oxides, which leads to asthma and other widespread respiratory problems.

Models found rigged with these cheat devices could be recalled or pulled off the road if Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport concludes the company cheated when it fixed polluting vehicles, according to a Reuters report last week.

Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius

Air PollutionDelhiDieselgateGreenhouse GasesIndiaNational Green TribunalVolkswagen