Banning Diesel Vehicles in Delhi

By: Dr. Chirashree Ghosh

Pollution is a prominent characteristic (unavoidable outcome) of urbanization and modern civilization. Air pollution has always been a key environmental concern for government and non-governmental organizations in an urban settlement. Delhi has grabbed attention for not only being the capital, but also because as a large urban agglomeration, it has high pollution levels – and was once among the top polluted cities in the world. Many initiatives like plantation drives, odd-even rule, capping of registration on vehicles with engine capacity more than 2000 cc and banning of diesel vehicles have been taken up from time to time, to control the pollution levels and improve air quality of the national capital region of Delhi.

Recently, July 18, 2016 National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed the Regional Transport Office (RTO) to immediately ban (de-register) all diesel vehicles that are more than 10 year old. The consensus on such decision was made based on the fact that diesel vehicle emit far more quantity of Nitrogen Oxide (NOx), Sulpher Oxide (SOx) and especially particulate matter (PM) as compared to other fuel type such as petrol and compressed natural gas (CNG). But on the protest of sufferers, NGT has revised its decision on July 21, 2016 to first de-register vehicles older than 15 years, and shift vehicles older than 10 years to less dense (vehicular) areas where air pollution dispersion is actively high (to be decided by the state).

However, India being a diverse country in terms of its people, culture and economy such decision will affect all of these aspects. Some of the consequences on the economy, as automobile industry contributes 8 per cent of Foreign direct investment (FDI), will be a slowdown in employment generation. Stakeholders who own commercial diesel vehicle and are completely dependent on it will be out of job. The problem will not end with ease – banning would also generate thousands of redundant vehicles, which would also add to pollution/parking/vehicular load of the city.

This initiative might not be too useful in long run as people will shift to petrol vehicles. Buying petrol vehicles are also not redundant of problems as it also releases copious amount of NOx, Volatile organic compounds(VOC) and carbon nano-particles that are equally harmful. Banning diesel vehicle might improve the part of urban air pollution but cannot solve the problem of urban vehicle density, poor road network, certain lifestyle habits (like burning of biomass) and construction activities, which will still contribute in increasing urban pollution. Some of the other important measures that need to be considered are, maintaining vehicle census as per number of family members to control vehicle density, using technical measures to reduce particulate matter emission from construction sites, putting in place a planned plantation pattern and green belt design to mitigate pollution, waste burning and finally sensitizing people to use public transport, go for car pooling and to avoid using private vehicle wherever possible.

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