Smog Digest

Smog digest is a news service on vehicular pollution based on news clippings selected from leading Indian newspapers and newsmagazine.

It also highlights the key developments from South Asian countries. The month witnessed lots of action and developments on the vehicular pollution front in India.

February 2010


Air pollution in Indian cities

Rising pollution levels worry UP legislators:
Environmental degradation dominated the proceedings in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly here on Wednesday as members expressed concern at rising levels of air, noise and river pollution and urged the Government to take effective measures for control. The Congress and the BJP pointed to serious health hazards of environmental pollution. The BJP members walked out of the House in protest against the Government’s failure to ensure measures for cleaning the Aami river, a tributary of the Rapti in eastern UP. Expressing concern at the increasing pollution levels, Pramod Tiwari (Congress) said the environmental calendar had gone awry, as manifested in global warning and melting of glaciers. He said the changes in environment were due to water, noise and air pollution. Rapid decline of the green cover was another contributory factor. Stating that 85 per cent of the urban centres in the State, including Lucknow, Kanpur and Ghaziabad, were badly polluted, Mr. Tiwari said people were gradually getting afflicted with respiratory problems. Urban Development Minister Nakul Dubey admitted these were serious issues and said it would take time to bring down the pollution levels.
Source: The Hindu, Lucknow, February 11, 2010.


Fuel and vehicle technology

Kirit Parikh panel for freeing petrol, diesel prices: Kirit Parikh on Wednesday presented the report on fuel pricing to Petroleum Minister Murli Deora. The panel in its report advocated Reliance Industries' KG-D6 facility total decontrol of oil prices, while recommending an immediate increase in prices of kerosene by Rs 6 per litre and LPG rates by Rs 100 a cylinder. The committee headed by economist Kirit Parikh also pegged the losses of state-run oil marketing companies at Rs 40,000 crore on account of having to sell transport fuels at below cost. "The fuel pricing policy will address government's fiscal problems," said Parekh at a press conference. In its report the panel suggested to free petrol prices at refinery and at retail level. PSU oil companies at present lose Rs 3/litre of petrol. It also recommended retail diesel prices be market driven. "There is no way we can continue with the current pricing policy," said Parikh while discussing the recommendations here.
Source: The Economic Times, New Delhi, February 3, 2010.

Oil retailers to submit affidavit to SC on clean fuel schedule: Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), on behalf of oil retailing companies, will submit an affidavit with the Supreme Court on February 25, outlining the modalities and schedule for availability of cleaner fuel required for the Bharat Stage (BS)–IV and BS–III vehicle emission norms, according to sources. The filing of the affidavit is part of the process that the oil companies have to follow before the country takes a leap into new vehicle emission norms. On April 1 this year, 13 cities, where BS–III vehicle emission norms are currently being followed, are scheduled to upgrade to BS–IV emission norms (equivalent to Euro-IV), while other parts of the country will move to BS–III emission norms. Incidentally, there is no clear picture on the modalities of the new norms yet, when there is less than two months to go for the same. “There has been no official communication from the ministry, but we expect the decision soon,” Pawan Goenka, president, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), said. On the contrary, the petroleum ministry looks firm on sticking to the deadline for the BS–IV, while BS–III, they say, will be implemented gradually.
Source: The Financial Express, New Delhi, February 19, 2010.

E-vehicle manufacturers seek incentives in budget: Though sale of environment-friendly electric vehicles is slowly picking up in India, its manufacturers feel that much more needs to be done in terms of providing incentives and developing infrastructure to promote e-vehicles and help conserve environment. The Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV) has urged Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to announce some path-breaking initiatives in his forthcoming budget to promote use of electric two-wheelers and four-wheelers as eco-friendly mode of transport. Underlining the priorities of the sector, SMEV President Naveen Munjal, who is also the Managing Director of Hero Electric, told The Hindu that “Apart from cutting duties on import of components used in manufacturing e-vehicles, the government should provide subsidies and rationalise tax structure to boost sale of electric vehicles. To boost domestic industry, import duties on completely-built units (CBUs) of e-vehicles should be increased.”
Source: The Hindu, New Delhi, February 23, 2010.

IOC stares at Rs 12K-cr subsidy bill, seeks govt help: Indian oil Corporation (IOC), the country’s largest oil refiner, is hoping the government will come out with a mechanism, in addition to the proposed fuel price hike, to help the company cope with mounting losses that it incurred by selling fuel at subsidised prices. IOC director-finance SV Narasimhan told ET NOW that he expects the company to incur over Rs 12,000 crore of unmet under-recoveries for the current financial year, as the government is yet to fully compensate oil marketing companies for the losses they made in selling LPG and kerosene. Under-recoveries are the losses incurred by oil companies for selling fuel at subsidised prices. Mr Narasimhan said: “We hope that some mechanism will be found between the ministry of petroleum and the finance, if the price increase (fuel price hike) takes place, after adjusting that. Because even if price increase takes place that will be for a month and maybe for a few products. So under-recoveries for the current year will continue in any case. So there has to be some mechanism to compensate.”
Source: The Economic Times, New Delhi, February 23, 2010.

Alternative Fuels

Auto LPG sales rise 34%, to touch 3.25 lt this fiscal: Auto LPG has seen brisk sales this fiscal, thanks to more passenger cars and three-wheelers opting for it as the best alternative to petrol. Consumption of auto LPG grew by 34 per cent at over 2.4 lakh tonnes during April-December, according to the India Auto LPG Coalition (IAC), the industry body representing auto gas distributors. Nearly seven lakh vehicles in India run on LPG, of which around 1.5 lakh have factory-fitted kits while the rest have retrofitted gas kits. The LPG car models include Maruti's 800, Wagon R, Omni, Hyundai's Santro, Accent, GM's Chevrolet Spark and Tata's Indica Xeta. Others such as Fiat and Skoda plan to follow suit. Bajaj Auto also offers LPG options in its three-wheeler range as well as its Platina motorcycle. LPG offers mileage that is comparable with petrol and it is one step forward in terms of cleaner emissions and lower price. It costs Rs 31 per kg while petrol is at least Rs 14 more (per litre). The IAC estimates that consumption of auto LPG this fiscal will touch 3.25 lakh tonnes. “This would have been at least a million tonnes but for the massive diversion of cooking gas that is taking place,” said Mr Suyash Gupta, General Secretary, Indian Auto LPG Coalition.
Source: Business Line, Mumbai, February 3, 2010.

Registration only for CNG/LPG autos soon: Regional Transport Office (RTO) of Pune, in a communique issued on Monday, has made it clear that new autorickshaws running on CNG or LPG will only be entitled for vehicle registration with effect from March 1. Regional Transport Authority (RTA), in its meeting held in last month, had taken a decision in this regard with the view to reduce pollution in the city areas. However, various autorickshaw organisations in the city have expressed strong oppose to this move citing lack of sufficient CNG supply in the city at present. “We protest the RTA decision. There is no sufficient availability of CNG in the city at present. In such circumstances, how come the transport officials can even think of enforcing such decisions,” president of the Rickshaw Panchayat, Dr Baba Adhav told Sakaal Times. He also accused transport officials for working in the favour of CNG retailers in the city and holding automen to ransom. MNS offshoot Maharashtra Navnirman Rickshaw Sena has also criticised the decision, terming it as illogical.
Source: Sakaal Times, Pune, February 23, 2010.

In-use vehicles

Flat tax move too little, too late: environmentalists:
The Kirit Parikh Committee proposal for imposing a flat tax of Rs. 81,000 on diesel cars, including sedans and gas guzzlers SUVs and MUVs, may be worrying the big names in the industry, but environmentalists who have campaigned against ‘dieselisation’ of personal transport say the plan is too little and too late. Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors, Toyota, Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen are unnerved by the proposal as diesel cars account for 35 per cent of the 1.5 million cars sold in India, and their sale is growing at 20 per cent, compared with an overall market growth of 12 per cent. The Parikh Committee has also recommended a rise in the prices of petrol cars, together with a gradual increase in the rates of subsidised kerosene and LPG. The flat tax recommendation is aimed at discouraging the use of diesel cars and utility vehicles, as they are not only gas guzzlers but also big contributors to pollution, their toxic levels six times higher than petrol-run vehicles. Though diesel cars or sedans are more expensive, their low-running cost has made them popular among motorists. The difference in price between diesel and petrol vehicles ranges from Rs. 70,000 to 1.50 lakh for different categories. However, the Centre for Science and Environment says a mere Rs. 81,000 in duty on diesel cars to equalise the excise tax burden on petrol cars comes too late in the day and is insufficient.
Source: The Hindu, New Delhi, February 8, 2010.

Stringent vehicle pollution norms on the cards: Three weeks after the environment ministry communicated India's voluntary commitment to reduce carbon emission by 20-25% of gross domestic product by year 2020 to UNFCCC, the road transport and highways ministry has adopted an active stance on this front. It has initiated the groundwork to put in place a stringent set of norms to control vehicular pollution. The task of crafting the new guidelines for certification of existing vehicles for carbon emission has been given to a committee under the chairmanship of Saroj Kumar Dash, joint secretary for transport in the road transport and highways ministry. As per early indications from the ministry, the fresh norms could make it difficult for old or polluting vehicle to get mandatory pollution-checked certificate, also called pollution under control certificate or PUC certificate. The time period for which the certificate is valid could also be changed. “At present, a pollution certificate remains valid for three to six months depending on the state. We are contemplating a change in the same. We are also looking at strengthening the system of checking the fitness of vehicles to control carbon emission,” a senior government official in the know of developments told FE.
Source: The Financial Express, New Delhi, February 19, 2010.

Union Budget 2010: Excise duty on large cars up two per cent, small cars spared: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Friday announced a two per cent hike in excise tax on prices of large cars, and sports and multi-utility vehicles in the general budget. However, small cars will continue to get excise duty relief of 4 per cent, which was offered on all car segments by the government as stimulus package to the auto industry in 2008 when auto sales had dropped following slowdown in the economy worldwide. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had spurred the automobile sector by slashing excise duty on two-wheelers (from 10 per cent to 8 per cent), small cars (from 12 per cent to 8 per cent) and big cars from 24 per cent to 20 per cent.
Source: The Economic Times, New Delhi, February 26, 2010.

Transportation and traffic

Ministry seeks excise duty sop on urban mission bus purchases: As part of its wishlist for the Budget, the urban development ministry has sought excise duty waiver for buses purchased by the state governments under the stimulus package. On-road prices of these buses range from Rs 40 lakh to Rs 70 lakh. The excise duty on buses is 8% now. The Centre had announced a Rs 4,735-crore package for states to buy 15,000 buses for urban transport under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). This step was taken to boost sale of commercial vehicles whose demand had slumped during the recession. If the finance ministry agrees to this proposition then stimulus package buses will come 8% cheaper to the state governments as the manufacturers would pass on the benefit to the states. “If we want an improved public transport system in India, there is a need to give incentives to the state corporations to buy more and more modern buses. In fact, the tax structure should be made in a way that city and state corporations end up paying zero taxes and this will boost demand for low-floor buses,” Akash Passey, managing director, Volvo Buses India said.
Source: The Financial Express, New Delhi, February 4, 2010.

Cabinet nod to use of standard buses in cluster system: Removing the final obstacle in phasing out of Blueline buses and bringing in the cluster system, the Delhi Cabinet on Wednesday approved the use of standard buses in the cluster system. With this, the cluster system will not have to depend solely on low-floor buses. The government was forced to take this decision due to a severe shortage of low-floor buses in India — only Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland produce these buses. The Capital at present has 950 low-floor buses, including both AC and non-AC. The Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) is expected to introduce 3,125 low-floor buses by March. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said, “The decision has been taken to overcome the delay in implementation of the cluster scheme.” According to the Cabinet decision, a cluster will have to maintain a ratio of 60:40 between low-floor buses and standard buses. Earlier, the government had assured the High Court that the cluster bus system will be introduced by March 2009. The first cluster — for 30 routes — was approved by the Cabinet in May 2009.
Source: The Indian Express, New Delhi, February 4, 2010.

Special task force for managing Delhi traffic: In a comprehensive judgment on management of traffic in the Capital, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the Delhi Government, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the Delhi Development Authority and the Delhi Police to constitute a joint special task force to explore all questions pertaining to it. The task force should concentrate on questions of minimising congestion, reducing pollution levels of motor vehicles and ensuring equitable access to all classes of vehicles that ply on the roads, including non-motorised transport such as bi-cycles and cycle-rickshaws. A Full Bench of the Court comprising Justice A.P. Shah, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice S. Muralidhar passed the order on public interest litigations by non-government organisations-- Manushi and Initiative Transportation and Development-- challenging the ceiling on issuance of licences for plying and creation of zones for cycle-rickshaws. The Bench said the Government should constitute the force within six weeks of the judgment and also provide adequate budgetary support for it.
Source: The Hindu, New Delhi, February 10, 2010.

Delhi HC moots congestion fee on cars: Suggesting the imposition of a "congestion fee" on private cars entering certain parts of Delhi as one way to ease the nightmarish traffic situation on city roads, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday made a decisive intervention to regulate movement of vehicles in the capital. A full HC bench created a 'special task force' whose job will be to "explore all questions pertaining to road traffic in Delhi" with focus on reducing congestion and pollution levels. Led by Delhi's chief secretary, the charter of the task force includes review of traffic flow, registration of vehicles, and restrictions on vehicular movement. "Delhi will not be unique if such measures (restrictions on movement of private cars) are actively implemented. In London a stiff 'congestion fee' is levied on private vehicles in some parts of the city," the bench said.
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi, February 11, 2010.

No cap on eco-friendly rickshaws, says HC: Cycle rickshaws can ply in the national capital without any curb on their number, the Delhi high court ruled on Wednesday, saying the fundamental right to earn livelihood cannot be denied to rickshaw-pullers. Reversing an earlier verdict of its division bench, a full bench headed by Chief Justice A P Shah quashed MCD's cap of 99,000 rickshaws on the city's roads. "The right of an individual or citizen to ply cycle rickshaws or other forms of transport falls within the legitimate exercise of his freedom guaranteed under the Fundamental Rights of the Constitution," said the Bench also comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhatt and S Muralidhar. The court said there was no objective material which can "remotely justify" imposition of a cap and pointed out that authorities have from time to time increased the upper limit of the number of rickshaws in the national capital and it cannot be fixed.
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi, February 11, 2010.

Rickshaws should get free access: With the high court lifting the cap on the total number of cycle rickshaws allowed in the city, Initiative for Transportation and Development Programmes (ITDP) a petitioner in the case is now planning to move the court to seek transfer of control of rickshaws to the transport department from MCD. They feel the need of the hour is a policy on rickshaw operation and design to ensure that this mode of transport is available in all colonies in the city as against the present system where rickshaws are banned in certain areas. Residents says rickshaws are green, fast and affordable mode of local transport. For them, cycle rickshaws form an effective feeder system to other modes of travel like Delhi Metro, buses and even autos. "I find rickshaws to be the most convenient mode to get to the nearest Metro station as they are cheap, fast and hassle-free,'' said Harsha Singhal, a resident of Janakpuri. For others, rickshaws are convenient for a brief shopping trip to the local market or till the nearest auto stand. "I prefer taking a rickshaw than driving to the market as finding parking space is next to impossible,'' added senior citizen RK Sharma, a resident of Karol Bagh.
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi, February 17, 2010.

Cycling and walking tracks will be developed in Delhi: Delhi CM: Asking people to opt for public transport, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit today said her government will develop more cycling and walking tracks across the city as part of its eco-friendly initiatives. "There should be few cars and I urge you to use public transport more," Dikshit said while speaking at an award function organised under Centre for Science and Environment's (CSE) Green School Programme. She said her government was "developing cycling and walking tracks" as part its eco-friendly initiatives. "Development has given rise to our demand but we need to limit them as resources are limited, time has come for us to start practising what we preach," Dikshit said. The Green School awards, instituted in 2006, are given to schools which excel in their natural resources management. "I am a firm believer that children are the ones who will bring change in the country," Dikshit said.
Source: Daily News and Analysis, New Delhi, February 20, 2010.

Special bus fleet, shuttle services during CWG: A special DTC bus fleet, shuttle services from Metro stations to stadia and free travel in public transport for those carrying tickets are some aspects of a spectator transport plan formulated by the organisers of the Commonwealth Games to be held here in October. The Games Organising Committee along with the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) has chalked out the plan to take care of transport requirements of the “ticketed spectators”. Some of the proposed measures include introduction of a special fleet of buses, providing a regular shuttle service to and from the various Metro stations across Delhi and Games venues, free passes for Games volunteers and workforce on duty, sources in the Organising Committee said. “There are also plans to integrate the Delhi Metro and DTC services so that all spectators can commute conveniently between different locations in and around Delhi. The ticketed spectators will be entitled for free public transport in DTC buses and Delhi Metro, valid for the day of the competition,” a source said.
Source: The Hindu, February 21, 2010.

1,000 solar rickshaws to ferry Commonwealth Games athletes: At least 1,000 solar rickshaws will be deployed to ferry over 7,000 athletes and their delegates during the Commonwealth Games later this year. A joint project between Delhi government and the central government-run Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), these zero carbon vehicles will help players commute inside the Games villages and reach sporting venues from Metro stations. "Its a unique initiative, where both innovation and concern for environment will be on display," Rajesh Kumar, a senior scientist at CSIR, said. "We hope the initiative will be a huge hit among athletes from across the globe. The fleet of 1,000 solar rickshaws will reduce the carbon foot print and provide hassle free travel to our guest sportsmen," said Kumar, who has been coordinating with the city government. These rickshaws are the greenest transport vehicles and help the cause of Green Games as promised by the Delhi government. These are optimally designed, pedal operated, motor assisted green pedicabs which draw their power from overhead solar panels.
Source: The Economic Times, New Delhi, February 21, 2010.

Gzb commuters slam congestion tax: Should a congestion fee be levied without first providing adequate inter-city public transport? While the Delhi government has begun looking at the option of levying the fee the fee will be levied on all cars coming into the city, which the governments says will work as a deterrent against the increasing number of private vehicles on Delhi's roads a huge number of commuters who come into Delhi everyday from the newly-settled residential areas in Ghaziabad along NH-24 have no other option but to use private cars to get from their homes to their workplaces in the capital. Locals say they have to use their own cars because there is absolutely no public transport to be had. The situation worsens because most of the salaried class living in the residential colonies along NH-24 Indirapuram, Vaishali, Vasundhara, Vijay Nagar, Kaushambi, Shipra Sun City, Sector-62 (Noida), to name a few have their workplaces in the capital. And NH-24 is the only link from these Ghaziabad colonies to central and south Delhi. Source: The Times of India, New Delhi, February 22, 2010.

In Court

‘PNGRB has no power to grant gas licences’: With the Delhi High Court ruling that the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) did not has powers to issue city gas licences, the government on Monday said the authority to issue permits for retailing CNG and piped gas in cities is vested with the Centre. The HC on September 21 ruled that since the government had not notified Section 16 of the PNGRB Act, the oil regulator did not have powers to grant authorisation for beginning city gas distribution. ‘‘High Court judgements are law of the land ... (and) the power (to issue city gas licences) rests with the Union government,’’ petroleum secretary S Sundareshan told reporters here. Sundareshan said the Section 16 gave explicit powers to PNGRB to issue authorisations for city gas operations and since the government choose not to notify it, the Board headed by L Mansingh did not have such powers.
Source: The Financial Express, New Delhi, February 2, 2010.

HC notice to govt on city bus service: Taking strong exception to the state government's dilly-dallying approach with regrd to the proposed city bus service in the state, the Jharkhand High Court on Tuesday issued notice to chief secretary, urban development secretary, transport commissioner and private secretary to the chief minister seeking their physical appearance in court by Wednesday. "Every time the same affidavit is filed and similar promises are being made, we find that there is non-compliance of earlier order of the court on the issue," observed a division Bench comprising Justice MY Iqbal and Justice RR Prasad. The Bench issued the notice on PIL filed by Janak Mishra seeking the court's direction for starting a public transport service in the state. During earlier hearing of the PIL, the state had filed affidavits saying that city bus service will be started from funds given under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) by the Centre.
Source: The Times of India, Ranchi, February 9, 2010.

South Asian countries

Guangzhou battles bad air quality ahead of Asian Games: The battle against “bad air” quality that authorities fought before the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games is now repeated in the south China city of Guangzhou, which is hosting the Asian Games in November. Local officials have expressed worries that the atmospheric demon would not be easy to beat down. The Guangdong provincial environmental protection department has said that the Games are taking place at a time when the city goes through the worst time in terms of air quality. There are acid rains during the last quarter of each year in the Guangdong province, where the city is located. The 16th Asian Games, the world's second largest sports event, is being held between November 12 and 17 this year in Guangzhou. The entire Guangdong province saw relatively "bad air quality" in October and November months in the past four consecutive years. Major pollutants include PM10 (particulate matter), PM2.5 and O3 (ozone), sources said.
Source: The Times of India, Beijing, February 10, 2010.

Shanghai residents prefer public transport during Expo: More than 95 percent of respondents would prefer mass transit during the Shanghai Expo this year, backing the municipal government's call for people to use public transport during the event, the municipal traffic authorities said Sunday. As of Saturday, statistics collected by and, the website of Shanghai Urban Construction and Communication Commission, showed that 49 percent of the residents polled would prefer taking the metro. And 22 percent of those surveyed pick buses, while six percent favor the Expo lines (a section of the metro). As nine percent of the respondents choose chartered buses, nine percent of the people surveyed prefer ferries. Only five percent said they would prefer taking other means of transportation during the Expo. More efforts would be devoted before the Expo to further improving public transportation, including the construction of nine temporary parking lots, promotion of the bus network and modification of 23 entrances to the Expo, said Huang Rong, director of Shanghai Urban Construction and Communications Commission.
Source: China Daily, Shanghai, February 21, 2010.