Environment minister Jairam Ramesh’s claim that using sports utility vehicles (SUVs), BMWs and diesel vehicles in India was “criminal” has earned him support from environment groups and censure from the auto lobby.
The Centre for Science and Environment on Saturday said diesel vehicles emit more toxic particulate matter and nitrogen oxide — rising pollutants in Indian cities — than petrol cars.
Major Indian cities have the highest particulate matter pollution among 230 Asian cities as per a recent survey of Clean Air Initiative Asia.
Auto manufacturers didn’t agree with either Ramesh or the CSE, saying diesel vehicles running in India were most fuel efficient and the least polluting.
“The auto industry appears to be a favourite whipping boy for the environment lobby,” said Vishnu Mathur, director-general of Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).
Germany also took exception to Ramesh’s remarks, saying German auto technology was far advanced in reducing fuel consumption and emissions.
“It is very difficult to imagine that Ramesh has made such specific comments on fuel technology with reference to German automotive manufacturers,” German ambassador Thomas Matussek said in a statement.
Big cars and SUVs now constitute about 36 per cent of the total car sales in India and already 30 per cent of cars on Delhi roads are fuel-guzzling mid-size or big cars. SIAM data, however, shows that SUVs just constitute 3 lakh of the 2.5 million car sales every year in the country.
“While the expanding SUV fleet with large engines undermine the fuel savings in the transport sector, the plume of emissions from India’s diesel cars make the urban air more toxic,” said Anumita Roy Choudhury of NGO Centre for Science and Environment.
Ramesh had talked about fiscal measures including higher taxes as a disincentive towards diesel cars.