Various studies on air quality in Delhi have reported that transport sector is a major contributor to air pollution.
Large number of motor vehicles in the city run on petrol and diesel and this leads to emission of harmful pollutants in the air. Various studies on air quality in Delhi have reported that transport sector is a major contributor to air pollution. In the last two decades, several actions have been taken by the administration to minimise emissions from motor vehicles. In 2001, there was a switchover of all public transport vehicles (including buses, autos, and taxis) from petrol/diesel to compressed natural gas (CNG)-based system. CNG was given priority because of its clean characteristics. In 2015, an environment compensation charge was levied on diesel-powered commercial vehicles (such as trucks), which were entering the city to use the roads as a short-cut for going to other states. Such vehicles are now required to make use of a regional ring road corridor, which has been developed around Delhi. During the same year, 10-year-old diesel vehicles were banned in the national capital region (NCR), as per a policy of phasing-out old vehicles. Subsequently, 15-year-old petrol vehicles were also banned. This means that vehicle owners living in NCR cannot renew registration of their old vehicles after the said period, and have to purchase new (or second-hand) vehicles that are valid within the required time limit. However, they have the option of selling their old vehicles to interested buyers living outside the geographical limits of NCR. Another initiative of the government was the implementation of odd-even car number plate scheme in 2016. This method was tried during peak pollution periods for a limited number of days. While it did restrict the number of cars on road, many commuters faced difficulty due to a deficient public transportation system. Further, the process of shifting to cleaner fuels was initiated in 2018. Presently, Bharat Stage Emission Standards Six (or BS-VI) grade fuel is available to motorists in Delhi, and this facility is being extended all across NCR.
The issue of inferior air quality received greater attention only after Delhi was ranked as the world’s most polluted city by the World Health Organization.
In addition to the above, Delhi’s metro rail project has helped in limiting emissions. The (391 km long) rail network has been extended to cities in neighbouring NCR states, and it caters to commuting needs of a large population. With the availability of this service, many people avoid using their personal vehicles. In fact, before the occurrence of COVID-19 pandemic, metro rails were running jam packed during rush hours. The other issue with the metro rail system is the gap in first and last mile connectivity. Considering that motor vehicles powered by fossil fuels (i.e. coal, crude oil, natural gas) emit harmful substances, the idea of shifting to electric vehicles (EVs) is also being pursued. EVs run on rechargeable batteries and do not produce tailpipe emissions. In this regard, a policy to accelerate the pace of EV adoption across vehicle segments (i.e. two/three/four wheelers) was notified in 2020. It seeks to achieve the target of 25 percent EVs of all new vehicle registrations by 2024. It is learnt that by the end of July 2022, the share of EVs in total (13.65 million) vehicles registered in Delhi is slightly over one percent (159,180). The policy objective is being achieved through a combination of measures. Buyers, for example, are eligible for financial benefits on purchase price of EVs and on scrapping of their old vehicles. The discounts on purchase price vary for various EV segments. On electric two- and three-wheelers, for instance, maximum discount of INR 30,000 is offered, whereas on first 1,000 electric cars sold, maximum discount is INR 150,000. Buyers of conventional vehicles (such as a car powered by petrol/diesel) have to pay about INR 100,000 towards road tax and registration fees. However for EV buyers, such expenses have been waived.
With the availability of this service, many people avoid using their personal vehicles. In fact, before the occurrence of COVID-19 pandemic, metro rails were running jam packed during rush hours.
EV batteries require proper handling at the end of their life, as these contain toxic substances such as lithium and cobalt. If this aspect is overlooked, it will amount to high environmental costs. Therefore, the policy encourages growth and development of battery recycling businesses in partnership with manufacturers of EVs and its batteries. EVs are environment-friendly as these do not emit pollutants. However, it is important to note that their batteries are charged by electricity, which is produced by burning coal. This process of electricity generation has severe health and environmental impacts. With the growth of EV sector, the demand for electricity will increase. This implies that greater quantities of coal would be burnt in future. Therefore, it will be necessary to reduce reliance on coal and give greater priority to clean and renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydro for electricity generation. The above-mentioned efforts aimed at reducing vehicle pollution in Delhi are showing positive results. Further progress can be achieved by strengthening public transportation systems, provision of facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, improving people’s access to fuel-efficient vehicles, and better traffic management.
The policy encourages growth and development of battery recycling businesses in partnership with manufacturers of EVs and its batteries.
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Rumi Aijaz is Senior Fellow at ORF where he is responsible for the conduct of the Urban Policy Research Initiative. He conceived and designed the ...Read More +