Controlling Vehicular Air Pollution: A Case Study of Delhi, India

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With its very large population of vehicular traffic, Delhi leads the country in its levels of air-pollution – it has more cars than the states of Gujarat and West Bengal put together. In the 1990s, Delhi ranked fourth among the 41 most polluted cities of the world. Air pollution problems in Delhi became so serious that a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the Supreme Court of India. After being censured very strongly by the Supreme Court, under its directives, the government was asked to take, within a specified time period, appropriate measures, including switching over the entire fleet of public transport, i.e., buses, from diesel to compressed natural gas (CNG). All the buses of Delhi were converted to run on CNG by the end of 2002. You may ask the question as to why CNG is better than diesel. The answer is that CNG burns most efficiently, unlike petrol or diesel, in the automobiles and very little of it is left unburnt. Moreover, CNG is cheaper than petrol or diesel. The main problem with switching over to CNG is the difficulty of laying down pipelines to deliver CNG through distribution points/pumps and ensuring uninterrupted supply. Simultaneously parallel steps were taken in Delhi for reducing vehicular pollution include phasing out of old vehicles, use of unleaded petrol, use of low-sulphur petrol and diesel, use of catalytic converters in vehicles, application of stringent pollution level norms for vehicles, etc. The Government of India through a new auto fuel policy has laid out a roadmap to cut down vehicular pollution in Indian cities. More stringent norms for fuels means steadily reducing the sulphur and aromatics content in petrol and diesel fuels. Euro II norms, for example, stipulates that sulphur be controlled at 350 parts-per-million (ppm) in diesel and 150 ppm in petrol. Aromatic hydrocarbons are to be contained at 42 per cent of the concerned fuel. The goal, according to the roadmap, is to reduce sulphur to 50 ppm in petrol and diesel and bring down the level to 35 per cent. Corresponding to the fuel, vehicle engines will also need to be upgraded. The Bharat Stage II (equivalent to Euro-II norms), which is currently in place in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Pune, Surat, Kanpur and Agra. All automobiles and fuel-petrol and diesel – were to have met the Euro III emission specifications in these 11 cities from April 1, 2005 and have to meet the Euro-IV norms by April 1, 2010. The rest of the country will have Euro-III emission norm compliant automobiles and fuels by 2010. Thanks to the efforts made, the air quality of Delhi has significantly improved. According to an estimate, a substantial fall in CO2 and SO2 level has been found in Delh between 1997 and 2005

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