Air Strategies for Delhi to combat rising pollution levels

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Air Strategies for Delhi to combat rising pollution levels

Monday, 24 April 2023 | Suyash Gupta

The Delhi government can show the way forward by employing an imaginative mobility policy that would address the pollution problem in the capital

While pollution has been a longstanding and perpetual challenge for the whole country, the urban areas and the metro cities have particularly borne the brunt of this scourge. Indian cities have regularly featured among the world’s most polluted cities in recent years. And among Indian cities, Delhi has often been the worst-performing one with the dubious distinction of having been ranked the most polluted city in the world for the fourth consecutive year in 2022. So what can Delhi do to moderate and reduce the rising pollution levels?

Recognize pollution as a multifaceted challenge

First, the authorities must treat Delhi pollution not merely as an environmental concern but as a larger policymaking challenge which is invariably also intertwined with a range of other issues such as rampant and unplanned urbanization, rising population, ever-surging vehicular population, fossil fuel combustion, stubble burning in the neighbouring states, shoddy and unsystematic waste disposal and management and burning of firecrackers during Diwali and the extended festive season. 

Tackle vehicular pollution

Given the excessively high contribution of vehicular emissions on account of a disproportionately high number of vehicles on Delhi’s roads, the government must mount an immediate and full-frontal campaign to tackle this issue first. According to a recent analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment, vehicles contributed to 51% of PM2.5 levels in the city, the most dangerous air pollutant for human health. And of vehicular emissions, according to another study, 20% of emissions came from four-wheelers

Auto LPG is far better than others

Exhaust emissions of vehicles running on auto LPG as compared to those running on petrol emit 75% less CO, 85% fewer hydrocarbons, and 40% less NO while leading to 87% less ozone depletion. Furthermore, auto LPG emits almost no black carbon and has a zero global warming potential (GWP) as against CO2 and methane 25.

Auto LPG is a better option than even EVs, for now

While the recent policy push on EVs must be appreciated, there is a need to acknowledge that setting up an EV ecosystem not only necessitates an enormous amount of investment but also has its supply chain-related constraints, especially in terms of the availability of lithium-ion batteries, a key prerequisite. In contrast, auto LPG already has a well-oiled infrastructure in place. Moreover, not only an auto LPG vehicle is a cheaper option than an EV, the price of converting an existing ICE vehicle into LPG is far more modest as compared to converting it into an electric vehicle.

Auto LPG is better than CNG

We have seen how over the years, the authorities in Delhi have been gradually bringing in CNG buses for public transport. While CNG may be good for large vehicles such as buses, for a private vehicles such as cars and other four-wheelers, LPG is a better choice. According to experts, auto LPG cylinders weigh less on account of their operating pressure being around 25 kg per cylinder as against 200 kg-300 kg of a CNG cylinder, impacting the performance of the vehicle.

BS norms are not enough

It is worthwhile to note that despite the introduction of Bharat Stage (BS) emission norms and the need for a periodic upgrade for vehicles in terms of stringency and implementation, our cities including Delhi continue to reel under heavy pollution. This has occurred even as cities such as Delhi were mandated to be among the first ones to implement and upgrade the required emission norms from time to time as compared to smaller cities and the rest of the country.

 Delhi Govt’s approach    

Admittedly, the Delhi government has taken a slew of measures such as setting up smog towers and air filtration systems, taking up traffic-related dust management, identifying and monitoring pollution and traffic hotspots, and most notably, implementing Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) earnestly. Under GRAP, the recent prohibition of plying diesel non-BS VI-compliant four-wheelers and entering heavy trucks in Delhi is particularly notable. At the same time, the government has also initiated steps on other non-vehicular origin emissions such as appealing to neighbouring states for redress stubble burning, suspending construction activities and banning firecrackers As part of policy stimulus, bringing down GST on auto LPG and conversion kits would be a first step. Simultaneously, it would also have to accelerate measures on other fronts responsible for the city’s pollution.

(The writer is Director General, of Indian Auto LPG Coalition)

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