Introduction:

Since the liberalization of the Indian Economy in 1991, the automobile sector has come a long way to a point where India is now one of the largest producers of automobiles in the world.

While it is certainly boosting the Indian economy by creating employment opportunities, improvement in mobility for huge population, at the same time, it quite literally has a darker side, i.e., vehicular pollution which is grown at an alarming rate. Air pollution from vehicles in urban areas, particularly in big cities, has become a serious threat and the same is evident through symptoms like cough, headache, nausea, irritation of eyes, heart diseases, various bronchial and visibility problems which are commonly observed in resident of such cities.

In a writ petition[1], filed by renowned environmental activist M.C. Mehta, the Supreme Court of India on March 29, 2017, delivered a landmark judgment aimed at curbing vehicular pollution. The Bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta ordered-

“On and from April 1, 2017, such vehicles that are not BS-IV compliant shall not be sold in India by any manufacturer or dealer, that is to say that such vehicles, whether two-wheeler, three- wheeler, four-wheeler or commercial vehicles will not be sold,”

The court further prohibited registration of vehicles meeting BS-III standards on and from April 1 -

“All the vehicle registering authorities under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, are prohibited from registering such vehicles on and from April 1, 2017, that do not meet BS-IV emission standards, except on proof that such a vehicle has already been sold on or before March 31, 2017.”

Further, Bajaj Auto Limited prayed for the Court to order the Union of India and/or Environment Pollution Control Authority (hereinafter referred to as the ‘EPCA’) to issue communication to all vehicle manufacturers that on and after April 1, 2017, vehicles not complaint of BS IV would not be sold or registered across the country.

What are Bharat Stage norms?

Bharat Stage (BS) Emission Standards, introduced in 2000, are emission standards set up by the Central Government to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles. In 2003, National Auto Fuel Policy, based on the recommendations of Mashelkar Committee, was announced by Government of India which provided the roadmap for implementation of BS norms for vehicular emissions. The different norms are brought to life as per standard set up by the Central Pollution Control Board (hereinafter referred to as the ‘CPCB’).

Roadmap of BS norms in India

BS III norm was implemented in April 2005, in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Pune and Bengaluru. In April 2010, the norms were implemented nationwide with respect to all vehicles.

Initially, BS IV norm was implemented in April 2010 in the National Capital Region, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad including Secunderabad, Ahmedabad, Pune, Surat, Kanpur, and Agra in four wheeled vehicles. In April 2017, the norm was implemented nationwide.

Impact of shifting from BS III to BS IV

As per the data collected by CPCB, shifting of BS norms from BS III to BS IV will bring significant reduction in emission of pollutants such as Carbon Monoxide from 2.3g/km to 1.0g/km, Hydrocarbons, Nitrogen Oxide from 0.35g/km to 0.18g/km etc.[2]

According to an article titled, “Status of the Vehicular Pollution Control Programme in India” published by the CPCB, impact of emissions from automobiles leads to among others serious health issues.[3] A few such instances are –

  • Exposure to Carbon Monoxide can prevent oxygen transfer and increase headaches/nausea.
  • Exposure to Hydrocarbons can cause headaches, vomiting and disorientation.
  • Long Term exposure of Nitrogen Oxide can cause Nose and eye irritation and damage lung tissue.
  • PM is Particulate matter. Its exposure can harm the respiratory tract and reduce lung function.

Impact on Oil Industry

It is pertinent to mention here, that the Ministry had issued an order on May 22, 2015, to all Oil Marketing Companies (hereinafter referred to as ‘OMCs’) and other stakeholders conveying its readiness for switching over directly from BS-IV to BS-VI quality fuel with effect from April 2020. In line with this, OMCs have begun upgrading their refineries with an investment of INR 30,000 crore (USD 46 billion approx.) for 100% BS-IV fuel quality by 2017. Further, an additional investment of INR 30,000 crore (USD 46 billion approx.) has been estimated for BS-VI fuel quality upgradation.[4]The Government of India has also confirmed that BS IV auto fuel will be available across the entire country by April 1, 2017, in a phased manner.

Future Prospects

As per the circular dated January 6, 2016, the Government decided to implement stricter emission norms of Bharat Stage (BS) VI from April 1, 2020 by skipping BS-V altogether.[5]

#(1 USD = approximately INR 64.64, as on April 20, 2017)