If India wants to keep health hazards at bay, it will have to implement stringent emission control guidelines on a par with those in the United States and European Union countries in view of the estimated five-fold increase in vehicles between 2011 and 2030, says a study.
By the end of 2015, around 50 Indian cities are expected to adopt the Bharat IV guidelines ensuring stricter pollution control measures and use of cleaner fuel in vehicles. At present, only 17 cities, including the major metros, follow the Bharat IV norms. Other cities follow the Bharat III guidelines.
But the study conducted by US-based Desert Research Institute (DRI) and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi says the country needs the enforcement of Bharat V standards, the equivalents of which are already in force in the United States and European Union countries.
The number of vehicles is estimated to rise from 90 million in 2011 to 450 million in 2030 in India. Increase in annual emission of fine particles or particulate matter (known as PM2.5) is likely to go up from 2,53,000 to 3,50,000 million tonnes in the same period, adds the study, which was published in energy policy journal of Elsevier earlier this month.
Exposure to particulate matter for a long time can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer and heart attacks.
The Global Burden of Disease study for 2010 published last year had listed outdoor air pollution among the top 10 health risks in India, with an estimated 6,95,000 premature deaths taking place in the country annually because of PM2.5 and ozone pollution.
Another study released by International Council on Clean Transportation in November last year had said particulate emission from vehicles was responsible for 40,000 premature deaths annually in Indian cities.
In 2011, the World Health Organisation had named 27 Indian cities among the most-polluted cities in the world.
The only way to arrest the rising pollution level, according to the DRI-IIT study, is nationwide implementation of Bharat V standards by 2015.
The move, if implemented, would stabilise PM2.5 at the 2011 levels despite the five-fold rise in vehicular density.
The government is scheduled to implement Bharat V guidelines in 2025.
Clearing the air
Bharat norms pertain to fuel quality and engine emission standards in India. It mandates, for instance, use of cleaner fuel with low sulphur content and improved technology for combustion engines to reduce emission. The introduction of Bharat norms led to the phasing out of the polluting two-stroke engines.
Emission norms were introduced in India in 1991 for petrol cars, followed by diesel cars in 1992. India introduced emission standards (Bharat norms) equivalent to European norms in 2000 starting with Bharat Stage II. BS 1 was the earlier Indian standard.
Bharat IV fuel (50 parts per million, or ppm, sulphur) is supplied to some 30 cities at present. Bharat III fuel (150 ppm sulphur petrol, 350 ppm sulphur diesel) is used in the remaining parts of India.
Moving to Bharat V would mean moving to 10 ppm sulphur fuel. Converting to higher versions of Bharat stage entails investment in better fuel refining process and more efficient motor engines. It is estimated that converting to Bharat Stage III and IV has cost Rs 32,000 crore in refinery upgradation over the past few years.