In response to a public health emergency brought on by rising air pollution in the national capital, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas announced on Wednesday that the introduction of BS-VI grade automobile fuel would be advanced by two years to April 2018.
Evidently, the government has decided to up the ante since it was only from April 1, 2017, that BS-IV emission norms for both automobiles and fuels were implemented nationwide.
The ministry has asked oil refining companies to assess the possibility of introducing BS-VI fuel in the National Capital Region from April 1, 2019.
Despite the good news, the government has not stated that automakers would have to manufacture and sell BS-VI compliant vehicles.
Nonetheless, environmentalists argue that Wednesday’s announcement could compel the industry into advancing the introduction of such vehicles. They are currently on course for rollout by April 2020.
For the uninitiated, the Bharat Stage (BS) emission standards regulate the number of toxic particles emitted into the air. BS-VI standards will limit the level of sulphur to 10 parts per million (ppm). Under BS-III, the level of sulphur stands at 100ppm and 50ppm under BS-IV standards.
The significance of this announcement is hard to miss, considering vehicular pollution accounts for 25% of microscopic particles known as PM 2.5 in the air, behind road dust at 35%. Medical experts contend that long-term exposure to PM 2.5 can result in lung cancer.
“Even though the full air quality gains will come when vehicles also move to BS-VI emissions standards, the current move should not be underestimated in a choking city like Delhi,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director of the Centre for Science and Environment, in an official press release.
“With substantially cleaner fuel emissions, the control system in the on-road fleet will improve and give some emissions benefits.” Vehicle manufacturers, however, have mixed feelings about the government’s announcement, considering the apparent costs involved in modifying their engines to operate on BS-VI fuel.