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Shift to BS-VI fuels to begin earlier than expected.

Context:

The central government on May 2019 told the Supreme Court that BS-VI auto fuel can be introduced in most districts of the National Capital Region (NCR) as well as Agra by 1 April 2019.This is the first step towards meeting the deadline of pan-India BS-VI roll out by April 1, 2020.

What are Bharat Emission Standards?

Introduced in 2000, the Bharat norms are emission control standards that are based on the European regulations (Euro norms). They set limits for release of air pollutants from equipment using internal combustion engines, including vehicles. The standards and the timeline for implementation are set by the Central Pollution Control Board which is under the Ministry of Environment & Forests and Climate Change.

Atmospheric Pollution in India:

1)According to a January 2018 survey by Greenpeace Environment Trust that covered 630 million Indians, 550 million live in areas where particulate matter exceeds the national standard, and many live in areas where air pollution levels are more than twice the stipulated standard.

2)14 Indian cities figure in a list of 20 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM2.5 levels in 2016, according to data released by the WHO in 2018.

3)Over 5 lakh people die in India every year due to indoor air pollution. Majority of them being women.

4)Smog has now become a common phenomena in Delhi.

Causes of atmospheric pollution:

1)Practice of Stubble burning in North India.

2)Presence of Sulphur in fuels:The presence of Sulphur helps in chemical lubrication of diesel injectors in the engine.Diesel engines need injectors to turn the liquid into a mist which then combusts in the cylinder.A lower amount of Sulphur means the injectors will go through increased wear and tear internally which may result in disruption of flow patterns leading to incomplete combustion which may lead to increase in emissions.

3)Old and outdated vehicles running on the roads.

4)Unclean cooking fuels used at homes.

5)Proliferation of pollution causing industries

6)Rise in population density.

7)Growth of middle class and easy availability of vehicle loans.

Steps taken to reduce atmospheric pollution:

1)The court banned the sale and registration of vehicles that do not comply with BS-IV norms after 31 March 2017

2)India had switched over to BS-IV grade fuel from April 1, 2017 following the directions of the court banning BS-III grade fuel.

3)Odd-Even policy implemented for a few days in Delhi to reduce pollution from vehicular emissions.

4)Graded Response Action Plan formulated to take action based on the levels of pollution.

5)National Green Tribunal restricted industrial activities and waste burning in and around Delhi.

6)The Supreme Court raised by 100 percent the Green cess being levied on commercial vehicles entering Delhi.

What is BS-VI Fuel:

BS VI Fuel are fuels which are “cleaner” than BS I to V. It has very low sulphur content- 10 ppm, compared to 50 ppm of BS IV. The amount of other harmful hydrocarbons is also less.

Ecological benefits of BS-VI Fuel:

1)Lower sulphur content implies lesser fine particulate matter emission and lesser corrosion of the engine due to sulphur.

2)The level of certain harmful hydrocarbons produced due to incomplete combustion of fuel will be reduced.

3)Emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from diesel and petrol engines is also expected to reduce by nearly 70 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.

4)Reduction of 10-20% in particulate matter (PM) can be expected after the introduction of Bharat Stage VI fuel.

Significance of the shift to BS-VI:

1)The fuel is being introduced in Delhi two years earlier than planned.

2)Such a shift will help India achieve its climate change commitments.India is now the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China.India plans to reduce its carbon footprint by 33-35% from its 2005 levels by 2030, as part of its commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted by 195 countries in Paris in 2015

Economic impact of the shift to BS-VI fuels:

1)The shift from BS IV to BS VI is estimated to cost refiners Rs 28,000 crore

2)The increased cost of production will not be passed on to the consumers for the time being. A mechanism to recover the cost at a later date is being worked out by the refineries.

3)Automobile industries have faced losses as the sale and registration of new BS-IV vehicles were banned.

4)Frequent policy changes affects the profits of automobile industry and reduces new investments in India.

Constraints in adopting BS-VI Fuel:

1)Diesel Pricing: Court has asked the centre to look into diesel pricing so that its lower price does not encourage purchase of mid-segment passenger vehicles.

2)Technological Difficulties:Automobile manufacturers had informed the supreme court about technological difficulties in converting vehicles to meet BS-VI emissions standards from 2019 in order to meet the April 2020 deadline.

3)BS-VI Compliant Engines:Although the OMCs are making efforts to prepone the implementation of the BS-VI grade auto fuel in some cities ahead of the pan-India schedule, full benefit of the eco-fuel can be derived only when the engines of the automobiles are BS-VI compliant.

4)Existing vehicles: They need to be retrofitted with necessary equipment like catalytic converter, diesel particulate filter, selective catalytic reduction etc to get full benefit of upgraded fuel

5)Issues with BS-VI Fuel:The fuel is said to have a lower lubricity value and its readiness to burn due to lower sulphur content. But then, various additives can correct these issues.

Other ways to achieve a greener transport:

1)Encourage public transport.

2)Implementation of National Electric Mobility Mission Plan.

3)Encourage R&D in cleaner greener fuels.

4)Improve roads to reduce the consumption of vehicles.

5)Vehicles to be mandatorily serviced after a particular period of time.

6)Strict regulation on industries and emissions.

7)Cleaner fuels for households

Way forward:

Move towards cleaner fuels should be followed by other measures to reduce pollution as a whole. It must be seen in the larger context of climate change and India’s commitment to its citizens under Article 21.

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