While the strengthening of the enforcement of existing PUC norms has been much needed for decades in Delhi, experts said it addresses only half the problem. While PUC norms are concerned with pollution levels of in-use vehicles, emission norms for newly manufactured vehicles continue to be at least nine years behind European emissions norms.
After Delhi was adjudged to have dirtier air than Beijing by the 2014 edition of the Ambient Air Pollution (AAP) database released by WHO, environmentalists said an aggressive plan to combat vehicular pollution was urgent. A source-based plan to combat vehicular emissions was particularly recommended.
Delhi is one of the cities in India that has BS IV or Euro 4 fuel emission norms — which are at least nine years behind Europe. Meanwhile, the much more common BS III or Euro 3 norms (which are 14 years behind Europe) continue to be a cause of problem in Delhi due to the high inter-state movement through the city.
“The PUC norms work through a smoke density test of in-road vehicles to interrogate the maintenance of the vehicle. Without proper maintenance, the vehicle can become a major source of pollution. But the problem is the test isn’t very effective with BS III norms, especially with diesel emissions,” Anumita Roychowdhury of Centre for Science and Environment said.
As per a study released by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Indian Council on Clean Transport (ICCT) earlier this year, the mandatory implementation of BS IV fuel quality and vehicle emission standard by 2015 while BS V norms by 2017 would save 18,000 lives each year from 2030.
The submission was made to the Auto Fuel Vision Committee earlier in January, but the road map is yet to be adopted by the government of India.
A report by TERI, University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) says that if current trends of vehicle population, fuel and emission standards persist, PM 2.5 emissions will increase by a factor of three.
“The existing norms for the PUC certificate are antiquated compared to what is being used in the western world, but the aim of this plan is to at least enforce those norms as effectively as possible. Once the system is in place, we’ll look to make advancements in the test itself,” an official of the environment department said.
Roy Chowdhury said a number of problems remained with existing methodology of testing and the technology used. “The technology used measures smoke density, but that isn’t very effective with diesel fumes. Moreover, the testing centres are decentralised and are problematic as the increased contact between the testing centre and the vehicle owners increases chances of corruption,” she said.