The National Green Tribunal on Friday banned registration of new diesel vehicles in Delhi amid rising concerns over pollution in the city. It also told the government to not renew the registration of diesel vehicles more than 10 years old.
Diesel is seen as a bigger pollutant than petrol. But it is a big driver of sales for carmakers, who refused to comment.
Their silence may be caused by shock. Of the new cars registered in Delhi, close to half run on diesel. The buses use CNG, but the trucks are all diesel.
The move comes at a time when the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a petition seeking a complete ban on diesel cars in the Capital and other cities. The case will come up for hearing next week.
“This (NGT) order has no data or scientific logic. Studies show only 2.5% of pollution comes from cars. We will appeal,” said Vishnu Mathur, director-general of the industry lobby Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.
The consolation is that it is an interim ban, which the tribunal will review on January 6, after talking to all the parties concerned.
“We also direct the government to take a conscientious decision in regard to not buying any diesel vehicle,” said the order passed by NGT head Swatanter Kumar.
The current emission standards for diesel cars allow for 7.5 times the particulate matter and three times the nitrogen-oxide emissions allowed for a petrol car.
Air pollution levels in the Capital have reached alarming levels this winter and the Delhi high court last week said the city had turned into a “gas chamber”.
The AAP government then announced that from January 1, it will bar private cars from driving on alternate days for two weeks based on an odd-even number formula.
According to the Centre for Science and Environment, an NGO, the emission from a diesel vehicle equals the emission from three to five petrol ones.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reclassified diesel emission as a Class I carcinogen, the same as tobacco.
However, diesel costs less than petrol and is the fuel that moves all trucks, which, along with the railways, are the main carrier of goods. A rise in diesel prices can therefore increase the prices of several goods by adding to the cost of transport.
If the ban on diesel in Delhi becomes permanent after the January 6 review, it will put carmakers in a quandary. Delhi is the country’s largest market for cars, accounting for more than a fifth of sales.
Companies spent big money to set up capacities to produce diesel cars because the government, despite promising in 2002 to end fuel subsidies, controlled diesel prices and kept them artificially low till recently.
This made it attractive for people to buy diesel cars, which are also more fuel-efficient. For instance, Maruti Suzuki, which sells one in every two cars in the country, sunk Rs 3,000 crore into two diesel engine factories, not counting the R&D expenses.