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Bumpy ride

Changeover from BS III to BS IV car emission standards happened over seven years. There are lessons to be learnt

BS IV norms were put in place in 13 major cities in 2010.

All vehicles sold after March 31 will have to conform to BS (Bharat Stage) IV standards. A Supreme Court directive on Wednesday imposed a ban on the sale of the more polluting BS III vehicles from April 1. The order clears the path for the adoption of BS IV standards throughout the country, seven years after they were put in place. For a country battling serious pollution problems, this will be a significant transition. Particulate emissions from BS IV compliant trucks are 80 per cent less compared to those from trucks that adhere to BS III standards. BS IV compliant cars emit half the pollutants compared to cars made according to BS III specifications. But that it took the government seven years to implement the BS IV standards across the country holds lessons for policymakers. The lessons are even more significant because the government plans to skip the BS V standards and leapfrog to the far more stringent BS VI standards in 2020.

BS IV norms were put in place in 13 major cities in 2010. They could not be implemented throughout the country because Indian refineries lacked the capacity to cleanse fuel to BS IV standards. As late as January 2016, fuel stations in nearly 70 per cent cities in the country did not have this superior quality fuel, leading the auto-industry to argue that this shortage was preventing it from making a complete transition to BS IV compliant vehicles. It was only in August last year that the Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan, assured Parliament that BS IV compliant fuel will be available throughout the country from April 1 this year. Solicitor General of India, Ranjit Kumar, confirmed this to the Supreme Court during the proceedings that led to Wednesday’s verdict. He told the court that it had cost the country’s refineries Rs 30,000 crore to make the transition to BS IV compliant fuel.

The refineries will have to invest another Rs 40,000 crore to Rs 50,000 crore to upgrade to BS VI standards. Oil firms will have to flush out BS IV fuel from the 80,000 petrol pumps in the country by April 1, 2020 when BS VI norms are slated to come into force. The auto-industry estimates that it will have to invest about Rs 50,000 crore to produce cars with the more efficient pollution norms. The compulsions of the refineries and automakers meant that the transition from BS III to BS IV could not happen in one go. The government would do well to keep this in mind when it works out the transition to the far stricter BS VI norms in less than half the time.

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First published on: 31-03-2017 at 12:12:15 am
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