Transportation contributes to about 14% of total air pollution in India
The Government of India has already made it clear that BS6 emission norms will be implemented from the 1st April 2020. This is done in a bid to reduce the air pollution in India through the vehicular exhaust. After that, no BS4 vehicle will be registered in any RTO all over the country. This announcement came with the BS4 norms which were implemented nearly three years ago from 1st April 2017, before that only 13 major cities followed the BS4 emission norms.
Note: The word ‘Vehicles’ in this article includes all types of automobiles, i.e. Cars, Bikes, Scooters, Trucks, Buses, Auto Rickshaw etc.
So the question is – are BS6 norms enough to curb air pollution in India?
The answer is plain NO!
Because vehicles contribute only about 14% of the total air pollution in India. Out of the remaining 84%, a bigger piece of pie is taken by the dust and construction sector with 45% with mostly particulate matter. Waste Burning takes the second spot with a 17% contribution (See, even this is more than the transportation pollution on which everyone loses mind). Rest we have pollution from diesel generators (at factories, small businesses and all) at 9%, Industrial pollution at 8% and Domestic cooking at 7%. You can see the same in the pie chart below.
Air Pollution originates from various sources, major sources include Dust and Construction, Power generation, and waste burning
The answer could be Yes, only if all the automobiles are replaced at once with BS6 compliant vehicles. Matters could turn out to be even better if every vehicle runs on electricity. All in all, it is just a hypothetical situation (a wild dream, LOL) and cannot be done in real-world conditions.
Even then, the Government is interested in choking the throat of the automobile industry which ironically contributes to about 50% of the manufacturing GDP of India. In India, traffic conditions in cities are so grave that a BS6 vehicle will produce pollutants more than a BS4 vehicle due to slow movement in traffic congestion. Yes, you read that right, vehicles emit double the amount pollutants at 20-40kmph when compared to 75 kmph speed and this becomes even worse at speed under 10 kmph which is quite common in the stop-go traffic in our cities. Due to this, city dwellers are facing acute respiratory disorders such as asthma. As much as 50% of children are suffering from Asthma in Bangalore.
We need more than just stringent vehicular emission norms
On the other hand, driving on the highways and expressways causes very low emissions. The reasons behind this is that the engine runs at higher speed, or what we call as a ‘sweet spot’ where the least amount of pollutants are produced. Also, the flora around the highways is there to trap most of the exhaust gases.
Let’s accept the fact that new vehicles will be cleaner to run but what about the millions of BS3 and BS4 vehicles which are already running on our roads? Not to forget the BS1 and BS2 vehicles in rural areas. Won’t they be releasing more harmful gases than the BS6 vehicles for many years to come? Can we do anything about them? No, don’t even think about it. People cannot ditch their couple of years old BS3/BS4 vehicles for the sake of BS6. Simply put, no one has that kind of money, at least not the middle class. These vehicles (BS3 and BS4) will be running on the roads until their lifespan is over which is 15 years for petrol and 10 years for diesel vehicles. Considering this, all the BS3 vehicles will stay around till 2032 and BS4 vehicles will take another 3 years to die by 2035.
Stringent laws are needed for waste burning across the country
Next big thing we have are Coal Power Plants. Many online reports claim India’s coal power plants to be one of the most polluting units in the world. New ones may be highly efficient but we have countless old-school units and I’m talking about them. Are there any regulations to curb their pollution index? I don’t know. Yeah right, I don’t know. Because most Coal Power Plants run under Government-run companies so money is the real deal there. Upgrading a power plant would require a great deal of money so these guys don’t to it and save or pocket it in wrong ways.
What about the burning of objects like plastic and rubber? Still nothing, more than half of the population doesn’t know that burning plastic and rubber produces toxic fumes which wreak havoc to the people’s health around the burning area. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas which is produced due to the decomposition of organic waste. Speaking about the organic waste you can find it in nearly every empty plot in India. I believe, even you, YES YOU, also throw your house’s waste into that empty plot nearby. Am I right?
Particulate matter is the worst enemy of human respiratory health. Most of it comes from the burning of stubble in the agricultural fields and also from the construction of buildings and other infrastructure projects. We cannot rule out the diesel engines when we talk about the particulate matter, they are everywhere, cars, buses, trains, diesel gen-sets and what not. In rural areas, people use cow dung cakes and firewood to cook food. This causes a lot of carbon monoxide and particulate matter to enter the atmosphere as create respiratory diseases.
A major chunk of air pollution in India comes from industries and no one is bothered to check them
It is a good thing that the whole world is moving towards the strict emission norms for vehicles. But developed countries are also moving away from the coal-fired power plants towards nuclear and other renewable sources. At present, Iceland is the only country in the world to get 100% of its energy from renewable sources.
If our country has so many loopholes in controlling air pollution then why only one industry has to suffer from strict rules? The same industry which is the backbone of Indian economy and contributes to a staggering 50% of the manufacturing GDP has been tied with chains which is causing the slowdown in the economy. With the BS6 engines, the prices of the vehicles will increase by 10-15% and thus further discourage potential customers from buying them.
Choking the only sector which makes the whole country run is not a wise decision. The government must look for expanding the forest areas and a better decision would be to turn wastelands into forest land. If possible, large air purification towers must be set up in densely populated cities to make the air breathable.
Use of LPG in rural areas will help reduce the PM concentration
The government haven’t taken any strict measures to curb stubble burning, cleaner thermal power plants. Not for forget controlling the use of firewood in villages are also equally important then why focusing only on the 14% part of the air pollution? Being a developing nation, we cannot halt the infrastructure projects and cannot shut down the coal power plants. Why? because we need infrastructure as well as energy for the country’s growth. Let me remind you, India’s electricity needs are ever-increasing and we are still catching up in the renewable energy sector.
And speaking about the firewood burning in the villages, Lacs of LPG connections are given to the people for free. But guess what, they don’t have money to refill their LPG cylinders. So people in rural areas again moved on to the firewood or cow dung cakes for cooking food. The problem is we have a huge population under poverty which we cannot comprehend while scrolling social media.
In my opinion, the Government of India must take actions to reduce air pollution from other sources too. Coal Power Plants should be upgraded to the latest technologies, stubble burning should be replaced with stubble collecting machines. On the other hand, solar power should be made more accessible to private electricity needs. I’m certainly open for your contribution to this article in the comments sections below.
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