BS-VI necessary for public health

Major Indian cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai or Kolkata are suffering from pollution at levels which are just not sustainable any longer, leaving little choice for the policy makers but to go in for both emergency and long-term solutions.

The odd-even traffic scheme in Delhi is a kind of emergency solution made expedient by an alarming deterioration in the air quality almost choking lungs of citizens, including children. Sure enough, such a response has to be in rare circumstances, but the sad part is that most of our cities have reached this situation, more so in winters when Particulate Matter (PM) of 2.5 and 10 micrometres remain suspended in limited area. Auto emission is not the only source of pollution but vehicles on Indian roads are way behind those in the developed nations running on Euro-VI fuel while we are managing with BS-III, barring a few cities graduating to BS-IV.

No doubt, automobile is lifeline of a country like India which has  urbanised to the extent of only 31 per cent so far and would need to create many more cities and urban landscape going forward. But then, the growth of the automobile industry, be it two-wheelers, passenger cars, SUVs or commercial vehicles, cannot be lop-sided but be a part of the holistic model which is environmentally sustainable. The kind of pollution being seen in the big and expanding cities is a clear reminder that the issue is no more confined to seminars and global conferences but is right here hitting the public health. It is in this backdrop that the Centre has decided to move up to the tough emission standards of Bharat Stage-VI from the present level of BS-IV by 2020, skipping the BS-V. By implication, manufacturers of the passenger cars, SUVs, trucks and buses have to invest, according to some estimates, between Rs 70,000-90,000 crore along with the fuel refiners so that people can breathe easy.

Expectedly, the automobile industry is not happy with the decision describing it knee-jerk while the refiners selling petrol and diesel, which are largely owned by the government, are expected to toe the official line. Different explanations are being given by the auto-mobile makers for sticking to the original roadmap of 2024 for the BS-VI standards. They are also upset about skipping the stage V altogether, contending they would need at least six years to reach the goal. While the earlier policy should not have been lenient, the cause of public health has to over-ride other considerations. Let some of those lobbying for the auto sector not raise the bogey of any setback to the Make in India programme. Conversely, BS-VI would only take the industry to the next level of global competence. 

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