Cars not to blame for Delhi pollution

By: |
New Delhi | Updated: December 25, 2015 2:28:22 AM

The Delhi government is set to roll out the odd-even formula for cars from January 1 to check air pollution in the national capital.

auto industryAccording to Mahindra & Mahindra executive director Pawan Goenka, it is unfair to blame only one fuel (diesel) for bad air quality. (Reuters)

The Delhi government is set to roll out the odd-even formula for cars from January 1 to check air pollution in the national capital. However, if one goes by the study of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, on behalf of the state government on measures to be taken to check air pollution, it becomes evident that idea to have cars plying on alternated days depending on the last digit of the number plate is nothing but a knee-jerk reaction by the state government and not a well-thought-out action.

While highlighting a set of other measures, the IIT report does suggest restricting the number of vehicles to check pollution. However, the state government has conveniently kept out two-wheelers from the ambit of this regulation.


The IIT study has pointed out that 56% of the PM10 (particulate matter up to 10 micrometres) and 38% of PM2.5 pollution comes from road dust and only 9% and 20%, respectively, come from all categories of vehicles combined. Of all the vehicles, 46% of PM10 and PM2.5 comes from trucks and 33% comes from two-wheelers, while four wheelers — only diesel — contribute only 10%, which makes it even less than 1% of the total pollutants.

That’s why RC Bhargava, chairman of the country’s largest car manufacturer Maruti Suzuki, is critical of the state government’s odd-even formula. “I have been constantly saying that 80% of the cars in Delhi are petrol or CNG, which do not emit PM pollutants at all. It is only the 20% diesel cars. By doing this odd-even restriction, what are they (Delhi government) going to gain?” he asked. “At least the Supreme Court has recognised the fact that petrol cars do not emit PM pollutants and hence haven’t taken action on those,” Bhargava added, stating that the Delhi government should instead focus on controlling other sources of pollution. “Why don’t they get the water sprinklers and vacuum cleaners to clean the road side dust? The government should also start paving roadside pathways to reduce the dust,” he said.

Auto industry executives FE spoke to said that on a per-vehicle basis, emissions by two-wheelers may be less than cars but since their numbers are almost double that of the latter, on a cumulative basis the emissions are higher. For instance, while around 1.8 lakh passenger vehicles were sold in Delhi in FY15, the number for two-wheelers stood at more than double this at 3.8 lakh. So, by keeping two-wheelers out of the ambit of odd-even, the level of pollution will not be effectively checked.

Simply put, there are two pollutants that come from vehicles — PM and carbon monoxide (CO). Diesel vehicles emit higher PM but lesser CO. Similarly, if petrol and CNG are good on PM, they are bad on CO. Therefore, according to industry veterans, banning diesel is not the option, as the Supreme Court has done in the case of diesel vehicles with engine capacities of more than 2 litres. Though new-generation petrol cars are good on PM emission levels, the same is not true for two-wheelers, which also run on petrol, because they still have a carburettor engine, which leads to high emissions.

The solution proffered by the industry is that if all trucks that run on diesel are upgraded from the current BSIII norms to BSIV, around 80% improvement will take place on PM emission. Similarly, if diesel cars are upgraded to BSV, around 90% improvement will happen in PM. However, this will take time as currently there’s no fuel to support BSIV engines in trucks and BSV in cars. Therefore, a better approach will be to come out with a scrappage policy whereby all vehicles older than 15 years are junked. Since most cars that are more than 15 years old will not be BSIV compliant, despite being petrol engines, their emission will be higher.

According to Mahindra & Mahindra executive director Pawan Goenka, it is unfair to blame only one fuel (diesel) for bad air quality.

Expressing similar views, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers director general Vishnu Mathur said that the auto industry is a soft target. “In the past several years, whatever courts have asked us to do, we have done that. There won’t be any visible results if we don’t come up with a holistic plan.”

Do you know What is Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR), Finance Bill, Fiscal Policy in India, Expenditure Budget, Customs Duty? FE Knowledge Desk explains each of these and more in detail at Financial Express Explained. Also get Live BSE/NSE Stock Prices, latest NAV of Mutual Funds, Best equity funds, Top Gainers, Top Losers on Financial Express. Don’t forget to try our free Income Tax Calculator tool.

Next Stories
12015- when India became the fastest growing large economy
2Finmin directs taxman to quote email, phone number in e-notices
3CNG vehicles, two wheelers out of odd-even scheme ambit