Is clean diesel a myth or a solution?

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) organized a roundtable discussion on ‘Is clean diesel a myth or a solution?’ in New Delhi on December 10, 2007. This discussion forum brought together national and international experts, policy makers, civil society groups and industry representatives to discuss the pollution challenge of rapid dieselization of car fleet. Controlling urban air pollution is turning out to be an enormous challenge not only because of the rising numbers of total vehicles but also due to the increased toxic risk from the growing numbers of diesel cars. There is considerable public and policy concern regarding rapidly rising diesel car numbers in Indian cities. In 1999 CSE had said diesel cars, the “Engines of the Devil,” should go.

We need cleaner alternatives as India had not even implemented Euro I emissions standards. Then diesel cars were only 2 to 4 per cent of the new car sales. At such a low penetration no one was prepared to believe CSE’s forecast that their numbers would explode very soon and negate all gains of pollution control in the city. But within a few years they have and proven the doubters wrong. Diesel cars today form nearly 30 per cent of the new car sales and are poised to touch 50 per cent by 2010. Nearly all SUVs are on diesel.