Emission Standards in India: The Current Scenario

Emission Standards in India

Emission Standards in India

Air quality has become a rising social concern worldwide in the backdrop of soaring air pollution from industries and vehicles. Due to acute problems of traffic jams from the increasing vehicles on the road, developing countries, like India, are facing severe environmental threats. India is on the brink of becoming a major manufacturer of passenger vehicles as its production increased from 3,707,348 units in 2016 to about 3,952,550 units in 2017. The country, despite being the fastest growing economy in the world, has reached an alarming stage in terms of the air pollution as most of its cities are already counted among the cities having the poorest air quality in the world. In a bold move to deal with the vehicular air pollution, the emission standards were imposed in India in 2000.

What are Bharat Stage Emission Standards?

Formulation of the emission standards is the first measure towards tackling the issue of rising air pollution. These standards consist of the legal requirements that govern the release of air pollutants into the atmosphere from the vehicles and equipments running on combustion engines. In India, the Bharat stage Emission Standards got implemented in the year 2000 and were based on European Emission Standards. These standards were instituted by the Government of India and their timeline for implementation are decided by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Ministry of Environment & Forests. Ever since then, India has implemented four emission standards based on the European emission and fuel regulations for four-wheeled light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles and its own emission regulations for two- and three-wheeled vehicles.

BS IV Emission Standards: The current emission standard

BS IV is the fourth emission standard launched by the Indian government to keep a check on the number of air pollutants given out by the vehicles.
This emission norm was first implemented in 13 major cities of India i.e. Delhi/NCR, Kolkata, Bangalore, Sholapur, Mumbai, Agra, Chennai, Lucknow Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Surat, Pune, and Kanpur from April 2010. After going through various transitions, BS IV fuel finally covered the entire country in April 2017. Under this norm, a special fuel was designed which contained only 50 parts per million sulfur as compared to the fuel used under BS III. The emissions of nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, and hydrocarbon from BS IV fuel is low.

This standard fights against the pollutants like hydrocarbons (HC), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and carbon monoxide (CO) emitted by the vehicles on the Indian roads. It pares the emissions of carbon monoxide by nearly 60 percent and, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide by 50 percent by diesel vehicles. In case of petrol vehicles, there was a reduction of 20 percent in CO levels and of 50 percent in Nox and HC levels.

Initially, the rolling out of this standard nationwide faced a lot of challenges. There was a delay owing to the deficiency of BS IV fuel. The fuel producers were required to make hefty investments to supply this fuel all over the country. The cities where this standard was implemented failed in ensuring BS IV fuel powered vehicles. Other challenges included-

  • Exemption provided to manufacturers of specialty vehicles like taxis.
  • Registration of the commercial vehicles not falling under the purview of the BS IV zones.
  • Registration of the vehicles powered by BS III fuel on wrong residential addresses.

India to leapfrog from BS IV to BS VI by 2020

The Indian government decided to jump on to the BS VI emission standards directly from the BS IV emission standards, skipping the BS V, in order to reduce vehicular air pollution. Earlier, the rolling out of BS VI norms was scheduled in 2021 but due to rising air pollution levels last year, the government decided to prepone its implementation. So far, no other country has taken such decision.

One of the main reasons behind this decision is the ever-increasing number of diesel vehicles as compared to the petrol ones. The vehicles which run on diesel are far more polluting than the petrol vehicles. According to a study, more than 50% of the cars on the road will run on diesel by 2020. This will increase the magnitude of the air pollution by an enormous amount in the major Indian cities.

This move of the Indian government would significantly contribute to lowering the vehicular pollution, which is responsible for making the air of the Indian cities the most adulterated in the world.

New Guidelines: BS VI Emission Standards

BS VI norms gained much popularity after the government decided to skip the BS V norm and directly jump to this norm. The Auto Fuel Policy suggested the implementation of this norm by 2024. But after the Supreme Court ordered the government to enforce BS VI standards before the suggested deadline of April 2021, the shift from BS IV to BS VI took place. With this, India became the part of the league which consisted of Japan, European Union, and the United States of America to implement Euro Stage VI emission standards.

This new emission standard has low sulfur content as compared to the BS IV fuel. The BS VI fuel contains 10 parts per million while the content of sulfur in BS IV fuel is 50 parts per million. It also helps in reducing the number of harmful hydrocarbons emitted from the burning of fuel. With the use of BS VI fuel in the diesel vehicles, the emission of particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxide will witness a fall of 80 percent and 83 percent respectively.

BS VI will be applicable to the different category of vehicles having a total weight less than 3,500 kg and which will be manufactured on or after 01st April 2020.
There is an estimation that the public sector undertakings engaged in the oil production may have to make an investment of INR 500 billion to comply with these standards. The vehicle manufacturers also have to invest a good amount to follow the guidelines of this emission standards. It is going to be a tough challenge for them to release BS VI fuel-efficient vehicles before the suggested deadline. Mercedes-Benz India has launched ‘Mercedes S-Class’ equipped with BS VI compliant engines two years before the deadline.

The true challenges

At present, the emissions of air pollutants from the vehicles in Delhi itself consists of carbon monoxide (59%), hydrocarbons (50%), and nitrogen oxides (18%). The presence of the particulate matter (PM 10 & PM 2.5) in the air is a major contributing factor in air pollution. This is going to be a big challenge for the BS VI fuel as big and good transformation in the air quality has been predicted and expected from its implementation in India. The BS VI fuel will bring down the level of the air pollutants by 80 percent in the diesel vehicles. The new emission standard will also reduce the emission of nitrogen oxide by 25 percent in petrol vehicles and by 68 percent in diesel vehicles.

Currently, the vehicles plying on the Indian roads are either equipped with BS III or BS-IV engines. Using BS VI fuels in these vehicles will only deliver the partial benefit of the BS VI fuels. So, there is a dire need of vehicles equipped with engines accommodating to the BS VI fuels in the market. The automobile industries of India can come into play by opting for vehicles complaint with the new BS VI fuel in the market.

Delhi-The first state to run on BS VI fuels

After the smoke arising from the burning of crops in the neighboring states engulfed the entire national capital in November last year, the government decided to directly jump to the BS VI emission standards from BS IV. The depleting air quality of Delhi urged Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas and Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, to order the fuel retailers in the national capital to begin the supply of BS VI fuels from 01st April 2018.
After this decision was publicized, Delhi became the first Indian state to utilize BS VI fuels in the vehicles to curb air pollution. This implementation of this fuel in the state was implemented two years before the suggested 2020 deadline.

The final word

Though the previous implemented emission standards have contributed little or some in reducing the air pollution in India, with BS VI fuel, there is a possibility that India will witness massive downfall in the air pollution levels.