Emission Norms in India for Vehicles: Problems in Enforcement

Pollution by Vehicles

Pollution by Vehicles

Going by the level of pollution getting higher and higher in the country as a whole and particularly in a few cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, Gurgaon and Noida, with Delhi leading, it is high time now that the emission norms are revised and enforced as most of the pollution is of the air and that is caused by vehicles plying on the roads.

The manufacturing of vehicles requires a multi-disciplinary and integrated approach to deal with the sources of pollution and reduce the widespread damage being done to the environment.

The factors that determine emission from vehicles are:

  • Vehicular technology
  • Quality of fuel
  • Regular maintenance and inspection
  • Traffic and road management

This is known to everyone, but how to grapple with these and streamline them is a complex issue that is primarily mired in politics, economics, business, science, management etc.

Vehicular emission norms in India

The need to control vehicular pollution has been realised by all for long and several measures have been adopted in the past to implement emission norms, like:

  • In 1991, the first stage emission norms became effective for petrol vehicles and in 1992 for diesel vehicles.
  • In 1995, a law was passed to install catalytic converters in new petrol passenger cars, starting initially in the four metros of Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai.
  • Since the year 2000, European emission and fuel regulations were adopted by India too for 4-wheeled light-duty and for heavy-duty vehicles. This is referred to as Bharat Stage emission standards. Bharat Stage emission standards are emission standards enforced by the Government of India to control and reduce the air pollutants from internal combustion engines like motor vehicles. The standards and the time frame for the implementation are decided by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Ministry of Environment & Forests.
  • Euro II, which is equivalent to Bharat Stage II became mandatory from 2001 in the four  metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.
  • A national auto fuel policy came into effect in 2003. It planned a phased out programme for introducing and enforcing Euro emission and fuel regulations by 2010. Also, it introduced a few emission requirements for inter-State buses with routes originating or terminating in Delhi and other cities.
  • Since October 2010, the country is following the Bharat Stage III or Euro III norms, while 13 major cities enforced Bharat Stage IV or Euro IV emission norms (Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Secunderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Surat, Kanpur, Ahmedabad, Pune, Agra, Solapur and Lucknow).

Problems embarking on Bharat Stage IV implementation

In the 13 cities, where Bharat Stage IV is in force, there have been certain problems associated with its implementation like:

  • Exemptions granted to some vehicle manufacturers of taxis etc.
  • Registration of vehicles by owners not being done at their place residence because of ambiguity in residential proof
  • Problems in the registration of commercial vehicles outside of the Bharat Stage IV zones
  • Lack of speciality vehicles like garbage trucks in Bharat Stage IV configurations.

Fuel  specifications 

  • India is still way behind in tackling the vehicle and fuel system as a whole. The Ministry of Environment and Forests formally introduced fuel specifications in 1996.
  • Only recently, the maximum limits for benzene level in petrol have been specified. 5% m/m for petrol has been set in the country and 3% m/m has been set for metro cities. The benzene content was further reduced to 1% in Delhi and Mumbai.
  • A law was passed to use unleaded petrol (ULP) in cars in the 4 metros initially, which was later extended to 42 major cities. ULP is now available all over the country.
  • There has been a phased introduction of fuel specifications region-wise.
  • The high level of pollution has led to the elimination of leaded petrol throughout the country.
  • In 2000-2001, 0.05% sulphur petrol and diesel have been introduced in four metro cities.

Some other problems influencing vehicle emission

  • One of the most simplest ways to control pollution is regular inspection and maintenance (I&M) of all types of vehicles. However, in India, leaving aside the vehicles for public transport, there is no mandatory requirement of personal vehicles to undergo periodic fitness certification. Other developing South Asian countries have introduced a mandatory I&M system and also effective traffic management.
  • Also the poor quality of roads in India leads to increased pollution as well as vehicle operation costs.

Proposed emission norms for vehicles and fuel in India

  • According to a recent news report, India is in the process of upgrading the fuel standards nationwide to stop cancer-causing particle emissions from vehicles and this can be implemented latest by 2021, six years behind other developing countries. The reason being there are real constraints oil refineries are facing to upgrade their facilities.
  • An expert committee was set up in January 2014 by the Government which proposed to introduce intermediate emission norms for automobiles of Bharat Stage IV+ before implementing Bharat Stage V emission norm. This would give oil marketing companies and automobile manufacturers time to prepare for moving to Bharat Stage V.
  • Sources reported that BS IV+ will be implemented in the major cities from January 2017.
  • A nationwide rollout of BS V is proposed to take place in 2022.

It is seen that in spite of introducing a formal emission control regime in 1991, India is still lagging behind other developing countries. There are loopholes in technologies and implementation as compared to the USA or Europe. Presently, our country is behind Euro norms, however, efforts have been made and emission norms in India are being aligned with Euro standards so as to bridge the gap between Euro standards and Indian emission norms.

We, however, need a more holistic and integrated approach to control vehicular emission. It is also very essential that the auto industry, the oil industry and the Government of India come together to prescribe fuel quality standards and upgrade motor vehicle technology to deal with the air pollution problem.