A Digital India Initiative

Automobiles and Pollution in India

January 5, 2016

Automobiles and  Pollution Image-1

The automobile industry is one of the key drivers of the Indian economy. Since the liberalization of the sector in 1991 and allowing of 100 percent FDI through automatic route, Indian automobile sector has come a long way. Today, almost every global auto major has set up facilities in the country. Different types of vehicles are produced in India, broadly classified into Passenger Vehicles and Commercial Vehicles The manufacturing of automobiles including truck, buses, cars, three wheelers/two wheelers etc. in India risen at a very high pace. Now, India is the one of the largest producers of automobiles in the world.

The total production of Passenger Vehicles (PVs) was 669719 in the year 2001-02. It increased to 3233561 in the year 2012-13, recording an average annual growth of 34.8% during 2001-02 to 2012-13. The total production of Commercial Vehicles (CVs) was 162508 in the year 2001-02. It increased to 831744 in the year 2012-13, recording an average annual growth of 37.44% during 2001-02 to 2012-13. The production of Two Wheeler in India was 4271327 in 2001-02. It increased to 15721180 in 2012-13, recording an average annual growth rate of 24% during 2001-02 to 2012-13. The production of Three Wheeler in India was 212748 in 2001-02. It increased to 839742 in 2012-13, recording an average annual growth rate of 27% during 2001-02 to 2012-13.

As per the latest data, the automobile production during 2013-14 is as follows:

Category  2013-14
Passenger Vehicles 30,87,973
Commercial Vehicles 6,99,035
Three Wheelers 8,30,108
Two Wheelers 1,68,83,049
Grand Total 2,15,00,165


Air Pollution

On the one hand automobiles are boosting the Indian economy by creating employment opportunities, improvement in productivity as well as facilitating the consumers in travelling and other day-to-day activities.

Many passenger vehicles using petrol are now having diesel versions, which is much more polluting as compared to petrol version. As per some estimates, more than half the cars on the streets are going to be powered by diesel by 2020.

Exposure to air pollution can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, which is estimated to be the cause for 620,000 early deaths in 2010, and the health cost of air pollution in India has been assessed at 3 per cent of its GDP.

In recent years, air pollution has acquired critical dimensions and the air quality in most Indian cities that monitor outdoor air pollution fail to meet WHO guidelines for safe levels. The levels of PM2.5 and PM10 (Air-borne particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter and 10 micrometers in diameter) as well as concentration of dangerous carcinogenic substances such as Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) have reached alarming proportions in most Indian cities, putting people at additional risk of respiratory diseases and other health problems.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), Delhi tops the list of most polluted cities. Among the world’s 20 most polluted cities in the world, 13 are in India. India is in the group of countries that has the highest particulate matter (PM) levels. Its cities have the highest levels of PM10 and PM2.5 (particles with diameter of 10 microns and 2.5 microns). At the level of more than 150 micrograms, Delhi has the highest level of airborne particulate matter PM2.5, considered most harmful. These figures are six times more than the WHO “safe” limit of 25 micrograms. Uncontrolled vehicular traffic seems to be the primary reason.

Reasons for Air Pollution from Automobiles in India

Some of the reasons for pollution from Automobiles in India are as under:

  • Absence of effective, efficient and well networked transport system in India.
  • Lack of fast railway network across India; which can run on cleaner technologies
  • Lack of fast and cost effective intra-city railway network particularly in major cities.
  • Immense population in India with resultant huge number of vehicles in India.
  • Faulty traffic management systems and frequent jams.
  • No stringent enforcement of various standards/norms for checking/curbing pollution.
  • Bad road conditions.
  • Adulterated fuels.
  • Older vehicles.
  • Inferior technology used in the automobiles.
  • Automobiles with faulty engines/equipments or having bad maintenance etc.

Emission Norms/Standards in India

The first emission norms were introduced in India in 1991 for petrol and 1992 for diesel vehicles.

In 2002, the Indian government accepted the report submitted by the Mashelkar committee. The committee proposed a road map for the roll out of Euro based emission norms for India. It also recommended a phased implementation of future norms with the regulations being implemented in major cities first and extended to the rest of the country after a few years.

Based on the recommendations of the committee, the National Auto Fuel policy was announced officially in 2003. The roadmap for implementation of the Bharat Stage norms was laid out till 2010. The policy also created guidelines for auto fuels, reduction of pollution from older vehicles and R&D for air quality data creation and health administration.

Bharat stage emission standards are emission standards instituted by the Government of India to regulate the output of air pollutants from motor vehicles. The standards, based on European regulations were first introduced in 2000. Progressively stringent norms have been rolled out since then. All new vehicles manufactured after the implementation of the norms have to be compliant with the regulations. Since October 2010, Bharat stage III norms have been enforced across the country. In 13 major cities including Delhi (NCR), Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai etc., Bharat stage IV emission norms have been in place since April 2010.

The Government plans to promote eco-friendly cars in the country i.e. CNG based vehicle, hybrid vehicle, and electric vehicles. The government has formulated a Scheme for Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric and Hybrid Vehicles in India, under the National Electric Mobility Mission 2020.

Measures to Tackle Air Pollution from Automobiles in India

The emission norms have helped in bringing down the pollution levels in the India. But, it is still too less an impact, as the pollution levels are rising across India in unprecedented manner, particularly in the metro cities like Delhi.

Therefore, stringent and drastic measures are required immediately like

  • Phasing out of old vehicles.
  • Ban on inferior technologies used in automobiles/engines like diesel etc.
  • Well maintained automobiles with heavy penalty on the ones in bad shape.
  • Creation of effective and efficient transport system in India.
  • Fast and cost effective intra-city railway network e.g. Metro (MRTS).
  • Effective, fast and responsive traffic management systems and avoiding jams.
  • Good road conditions with more flyovers and underpasses etc.
  • Clean and good quality fuels like CNG.
  • Superior and environment friendly technology to be used in automobile production.
  • Stringent enforcement of various standards/norms for checking/curbing pollution.
  • Faster implementation of the Bharat stage V and VI emission norms
  • Curb on the huge number of vehicles in India by imposing heavy duties/taxes.
  • Other measures like congestion tax, restricting entry/using of vehicles for example odd-even formula of Delhi etc.