The government has launched the process to formulate a new policy to declare emission standards for vehicles, but the impact of rising vehicular pollution on public health is missing from its purview.
Two years after India's last auto-fuel policy lapsed with the notification of Bharat Stage IV emission norms for vehicles in select cities, the government woke up from its slumber and constituted a committee to suggest a new auto fuel roadmap for 2025.
The petroleum ministry has asked the committee, headed by plan panel member Saumitra Chaudhuri, to recommend new emission standards for vehicles on the road as well as new ones - taking into consideration achievements under the last policy, growth of vehicular population and availability of fuel.
The terms of reference of the committee are heavily loaded in favour of automobile manufacturers and fuel companies, with not a single mention of the deteriorating air pollution levels in India.
Of the 13 committee members, only one is an environment-economist. Most of the others are linked with the auto sector or fuel companies.
Around one-fourth of the air pollution-related deaths in Asia happen in India, the latest report from the World Health Organisation states. Delhi was rated as most polluted city in the world by Yale University last year, and the Central Pollution Control Board - the country's pollution watchdog - says that only 5% of the 250 cities monitored have air quality better than the recommended standard.
Anumita Roy Chaudhury of the Centre for Science and Environment said that the increasing number of roads was the biggest contributor to rising air pollution levels in Indian cities.
The government wants the committee to recommend a policy for reducing vehicular emissions. The entire emission regime would depend on whether the oil companies would be able to create infrastructure to provide cleaner fuel for vehicles and auto manufacturers would come up with better vehicle technologies.
The committee has been asked to recommend a suitable mix of automobile fuels, including gas and its specifications, keeping in mind infrastructure availability, fuel processing costs, and logistics.
Another key area for the committee to explore would be the removal of inter-fuel distortions and alternative fuels that minimise the impact on the environment. The committee will also look into new emission norms, but they are unlikely to come into effect before 2017.