The SMOG issue in Delhi gave golden chance to Environmentalist and National Green Tribunal (NGT) to take non-populous steps towards making Delhi’s air cleaner. While the action will certain reduce the severity of the situation but to the large extent they are not curative and probably not even measurable.
There is mixed reaction from the populace of Delhi, the 24×7 Media and the confused Industry about the odd-even rule and ban of diesel vehicles (with >2L Engine capacity). As mentioned by every expert/media, Power Plants, Automobiles, burning of Agriculture by products and Construction are the main culprits deteriorating air quality in the National Capital Region. Multiple studies have derived different sets of numbers towards contribution from sources mentioned above.
With an engineer who graduated from the esteemed IIT as its Chief Minister, the Aam Aadmi Party government decide to take on the technologically advanced culprit i.e. automotive, while the NGT took harsh step to ban the diesel vehicle with 2+ Litre engine capacity.
In terms of vehicle density per kilometer of constructed road, Delhi Ranks 5th in India (245 Vehicles/km). Delhi has 30000 kms of roads within its limits while remaining 4 cities road length when added is less than that of Delhi. But if we look at the road density Delhi is highest (2103 km/100 sq. km). This turn out to be whopping 515,235 vehicle/100 sq km.
As mentioned earlier, multiple studied have been conducted on the estimating the source of PM 2.5 composition. The conclusions are not cohesive and contribution to PM 2.5 from Automotive is 9% while roadside dust contributing highest i.e. 38%. In case of PM10 its 20% and 56% respectively. Thus, in our opinion road dust should be first thing to be looked at.
As an automotive industry professional, we will focus on the segment which we know a better than others (energy, agriculture and construction). Let’s look at what else could have been done in the automotive.
First and foremost it is (pollution from Automotive’s) not only an issue of number of vehicles (Delhi has 7.5 million vehicle while Mumbai has approximately 2.5 million). Its more on the quality of vehicle, roads, rules and the implementation of the regulations.
Let’s talk about active solutions
- Vehicle heath monitoring
In-use vehicles monitoring is only limited to smoke and quality of the measurement is a serious concern. In most states, certificates are easily available without testing while in some states the corrupt certificate issuers do not even need the vehicle to be physically present. While there is a process of vehicle health monitoring or physical validation for commercial vehicles at certain intervals, there is no procedure for health monitoring for private passenger vehicles (Fitness certificate validity is 15 years). The strict enforcement of the health monitoring is essential. With new age IoT based solutions, simple low cost methods can be devised.
While there is limited testing of in-use public vehicles, I doubt there is a mechanism to monitor government vehicle fleet quality. In Pune, for example, city run buses are poorly maintained and often breakdown on the roads.
- Road Quality
Government is giving incentive on manufacturing and buying vehicles while it is failing to keep pace in building roads. Quality of the roads is also a serious concern, barring few roads in India most of the roads are built unscientifically and poorly maintained. The quality of road is seriously restricting the average speed on the road, resulting in more idling (chances of increase in PM more). The roads also deteriorate rapidly and lead to creation of debris that adds to the total pollution. Cement roads are repaired with asphalt which wears off very quickly. Poor quality roads are also detrimental to the vehicle health and the vehicle owners find it difficult to maintain vehicle with repeated failures due to poor roads.
As we discussed earlier, automotive contribution is significant to PM2.5 still most of the studied conclude that for PM 2.5 dust on the road is most prominent reason. Major roads like highways in NCR are clean but remaining are in poor shape and dusty. There is definite scope to reduce PM 2.5 by maintaining road cleanliness.
- Rule and Adherence
How many of us obey traffic rules? By not obeying rules traffic management is becoming nightmare for authorities. Why can’t we wait on the signal for our turn or obey the lane discipline or one-ways in the city.
While I say road users are not following rule, the city councils and traffic police are equally responsible for this. Most of the cases the sign boards, Zebra lines are missing or confusing. If the signals are installed with timers (in working conditions), the unnecessary accelerations, honking can be reduced to great extent. While traffic police seems to be looking at catching the signal breaker than stopping him/her at the right spot. Mere obeying of rules or a stricter enforcement can reduce emissions at least by 10%.
- 3W and 2W – Contribution
Contribution from the 2W and 3W segment is again considerably large and often not considered while restricting emissions. 3 Wheelers are found to be using poor quality fuels like kerosene. Though the emissions from these vehicles individually less but if we add the numbers for the total 2W and 3W then it will be definitely significant. It is widely stated by 2W manufacturers that the emission norms for that segment are the most stringent in the world, but then they also need to consider how big the market size is in India compared to anywhere else int he world. What we need, as we say again, is strict enforcement of vehicle health monitoring.
Only time will decide the fate of this odd-even rule, but for the folks who wanted quick fixes, these may not be enough. A comprehensive vehicle health monitoring system integrated with the traffic management system is an ideal solution and well, the technology exists – for the implementation the government, industry and the populace should come together. We look forward to be a part of such endeavours, though reactive.