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Stop subsidising diesel for clean air, says Sunita Narain

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) chief Sunita Narain criticised the automobile industry for “misleading” the people and the court by underplaying vehicular pollution emitted by them.
Sunita Narain, Diesel Ban

Raising concerns over the rising number of diesel cars on Delhi roads, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) chief Sunita Narain criticised the automobile industry for “misleading” the people and the court by underplaying vehicular pollution emitted by them.

“One diesel car emits pollutants equivalent to five petrol cars, nine diesel cars emit pollutants equal to one diesel truck and six diesel cars emit pollutants equal to one diesel bus. These facts go straight against the claim of the auto industry in the Supreme court,” Narain said.

If this equation is to be applied for the 68,384 diesel cars in Delhi, which were registered between 2014-15, then the national capital has 3.4 lakh extra cars or 7,598 extra diesel trucks or about 11,397 extra diesel buses, choking the Delhi’s air.

Narain further advocated de-subsidisation of the diesel, stating “cars are using more diesel than the farmer for whom the diesel was subsidised”.

She also rejected the claim that vehicles don’t have a major role in the pollution of Delhi, rather there are other sources of pollution such as burning of garbage in the open, power plants and the like.

“Pollution level of any city throughout the year depends upon the consistent factors. A study conducted by IIT Kanpur stated that the most consistent source of pollution throughout the year are mostly the diesel vehicles, while most other sources are variable,” she said.

She also added that vehicles, especially the diesel cars, are the most dominant source for the particulate pollutants, including PM10 (particles with diameter less than 10 mm) and PM2.5.

CSE’s executive director Anumita Roychowdhury also rebuffed the auto industry’s claims that the diesel and auto emissions are equal, stating that the popular diesel cars in India failed to meet the official limit in Europe and were found emitting six to 12 times more than what was permissible. While Euro-6 version of fuel is operational in Europe, China uses Euro-5. India now follows Euro-4 standard, but there’s a plan to upgrade to Euro-6 by 2020.

“Studies in Europe showed that while emission from Euro-4 diesel car was 0.027 units per km, it was 0.001 units per km with Euro-4 petrol car. Indian automobile industry has not disclosed any emission data for Euro-4 diesel cars in India,” Roychowdhury said.

Referring to over 20,000 diesel taxis in Delhi which has been banned, CSE said while it’s very expensive to convert diesel cars into CNG, the better option is to convert them into a diesel-hybrid cars.

“This was successfully tested at some places but still being explored in India,” said a CSE research associate.

There are over one lakh cabs in Delhi out of which 64,000 are diesel taxis. According to a 1998 order of the Supreme Court, all the diesel-run buses and taxis were to be charged or converted into CNG. This was applicable for the city taxis but not for Delhi-based diesel taxis with all-India tourist permit (AITP). And this has turned out to be the loophole, as diesel taxis with AITP have started operating within Delhi.

The CSE also mentioned countries like China where sale of new cars was capped and over six lakh old buses were taken off Beijing’s road. While China has same taxes over diesel cars as on petrol cars, Sri Lanka hiked the taxes for the diesel cars.

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