On April 7th, 2015, in an unprecedented move to cut down on air pollution in Delhi, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered that diesel vehicles older than 10 years be banned from plying in India’s national capital. This order ruled that all diesel vehicles in the national capital region, both private and commercial. The Delhi state administration led by Arvind Kejriwal expressed its inability to comply with the order, citing the sheer magnitude of vehicles that needed to be put off the road.
Talking numbers, with its current strength of about 200 personnel, the enforcement wing of the transport department needs each employee to check and impound nearly 3,000 vehicles, leading to a figure that isn’t just mind boggling but is also very hard to contend with in enforcement terms. Noting the Delhi government’s concerns, the NGT has stayed the ban on diesel vehicles in Delhi, albeit for two weeks.
In the next couple of weeks, the government of Delhi and its agencies will have to scramble up a plan that addresses five key points that will directly affect private car buyers and owners:
1. Scientifically arrived at age to determine the vehicles that can ply in Delhi, irrespective of the fuel used. This means that even petrol powered vehicles could come under the ambit of the ban.
2. The cap on vehicles registered in the National Capital Territory, which includes Delhi and adjoining townships.
3. Benefits that may be provided to owners whose vehicles are banned.
4. How the administration plans to encourage and incentivize car pooling and measures that help reduce the volume of vehicles on roads.
5. How public transport with strategically located parking lots will be boosted to discourage car use, and on how private vehicle ownership charges would be increased by imposition of congestion charges, higher road tax, etc, to disincentivize car purchase.
Possible Ramifications Explained
The next couple of weeks are likely to determine the direction that the diesel vehicle ban in Delhi could take. For now, the truckers who are crucial to the supply chain system in India are already up in arms against the ban, threatening to go off roads. A trucker’s strike, if total, could debilitate a city. The builders, who have been hit with a construction ban in certain parts of the national capital territory, are also bound to be hit hard by the diesel vehicle ban – if implemented that is – as most vehicles involved in the construction industry are diesel powered.
Private car owners will be watching with bated breath as the automobile is usually the second most expensive purchase of an average individual, and replacing an old one with a newer model off the cuff, might not be feasible for most. Resale value of diesel cars will most certainly plummet if the ban is seriously implemented. A deluge of diesel vehicles from Delhi could head to used vehicle markets in neighboring states as the ban does not advocate scrapping of polluting vehicles.
Sales of new diesel cars could be hit badly as buyers would begin preferring to opt for petrol power. And Delhi is the largest car markets of the country. On the whole, the seemingly knee jerk ban order could lead to widespread consternation. In the meantime though, the Supreme Court of India is the body that can overturn the NGT’s ban on 10 year old diesel vehicles from plying in Delhi, if it finds the orders of the tribunal malafide or un-implementable. A lot of hopes will be pinned on the apex court of the country.
Some Questions for the NGT
Apart from blanket bans such as the one on 10 year old diesel vehicles, is there no way to ensure better air quality levels in Delhi?
Why is overloading of commercial vehicles – a major cause of increased tail pipe emissions being ignored, along with lax implementation of periodic emission checks?
Won’t a ban on diesel vehicles without a workable scrappage policy result in the problem being transferred elsewhere?For instance, highly polluting diesel vehicles banned from Delhi and the National Capital Territory may continue plying in neighboring states, endangering air quality of those places.
Why isn’t there a vigorous demand by the NGT to get the oil refining companies to begin producing ultra low sulphur diesel (ULSD), and Euro V and Euro VI fuels?
On a similar note, why are automakers not being legislated to move to Euro V and Euro VI vehicle technologies that cut tail pipe emissions drastically?
Will these measures not be more wholesome and workable than blanket bans that are not only hard to implement but also poor in their intended outcomes?
Have the previous bans been implemented, and if not what is the point of a new ban? To illustrate, the ban on 15 year old vehicles from Delhi roads is yet to be implemented rigorously. If the latest bans also ends up in the way that the previous bans have, won’t bans serve to merely pay lip service to appease global pollution watch agencies than make a tangible difference to the quality of peoples’ lives.
Why aren’t measures such as bypasses and alternate low traffic routes, which prevent commercial vehicle movement that cause major bottlenecks and pollution within larger cities, not being implemented on a war footing?