Tuesday, January 12, 2016

[Editorial # 39] Welcome measure to clean the air

[Following editorial has been published in The Hindu on 12th January 2016. Read through it and try to answer the questions that follow. Please do not copy and paste answers. The objective of this exercise is to get you in the groove of answer -writing. Try to write in your own words. Don't hesitate to write in a bulleted-format, if you are uncomfortable in writing in paragraph form.]
The Centre’s decision to adopt Bharat Stage VI automotive fuels nationwide by April 1, 2020 is a key measure that can, if implemented properly, vastly improve air quality. Rolling out the BS VI standard nationally, skipping BS V, has significant cost implications for fuel producers and the automobile industry, but its positive impact on public health would more than compensate for the investment. Major pollutants such as fine particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide emitted by millions of vehicles on India’s roads are severely affecting the health of people, particularly children whose lungs are immature and hence more vulnerable. Thousands of premature deaths and rising rates of asthma episodes highlight the urgent need to make a radical and complete shift to modern fuels and vehicle technologies. Past national policy of implementation of the BS IV fuel standard failed primarily because this was not done all over the country and the technical standard also permitted a higher level of sulphur in the fuel. Higher sulphur results in high volumes of fine respirable particulates measuring 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) being generated in emissions. Since even this obsolete standard was not followed uniformly, many vehicles, especially commercial passenger and freight carriers, have been using lower standard fuel supplied outside big cities. This has rendered their catalytic converters incapable of absorbing pollutants.
Improved air quality, especially in big urban centres, depends on several factors in an era of fast motorisation. A bloated population of vehicles using fossil fuels has affected travel speeds, worsening pollution levels. Poor civic governance has left roads unpaved and public spaces filled with debris and construction dust, constantly re-circulating particulate matter in the air. Moreover, the monitoring of diesel passenger and commercial vehicles – the biggest contributors to total emissions – for compliance with emissions regulations remains poor. Such a record does not inspire confidence that retrofitting of old vehicles to use higher quality fuels such as BS VI can be achieved smoothly. Equally, the distortions in urban development policy that facilitate the use of personal motorised vehicles rather than expanding good public transport, walking and cycling, are glaring. Many of these issues were underscored by the Saumitra Chaudhuri Committee on Auto Fuel Vision and Policy 2025 in its report submitted in 2014. The panel also recommended appropriate levies to fund the transition to cleaner, low sulphur fuels. A study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi on fuel policy and air quality in the same year concluded that the best results would be achieved by raising the fuel standard and introducing policy initiatives that would influence passenger behaviour and cut personal travel kilometres by 25 per cent. The government has done well to advance the deadline for cleaner fuels by three years. It must show the same diligence in making other policy changes in partnership with State governments to clean up the air.
1. Explain the following terms:
  • Bharat Stage
  • Asthma
  • Particulate matter
  • Catalytic Converters
  • Urban development policy
  • Levy

2. What is the relevance of standards like Bharat Stage VI?
3. What are common air pollutants? What are their sources? 
4. How do we measure the intensity of air pollution?
5. Why did Bharat Stage IV fail?
6. What are the obstacles in implementing BS VI?
7. Highlight the recommendations of Saumitra Chaudhuri Committee.
8. What steps would you take as an administrator to check the menace of air pollution? Suggest a few practical measures.
9. What ethical concerns do you think are there with the issue of air pollution? 


  1. 1.a) Bharat Stage- is synonimus to the Euro norms followed in Europe. The Bharat Stage, like Euro norms, define the limits of pollutants(like CO2, NOx,Sulphur, etc) that vehicles can emits.
    b)Asthma- is a common long-term illness that can cause coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness.
    c)Particulate Matter- consists of all the hazardous solid and liquid particles suspended in the air. This mixture consists of both organic and inorganic particles such as dust, soot,smoke, etc.
    d)Catalytic converters- are devices fixed in vehicles that uses a catalyst(such as platinum and palladium) to convert harmful pollutants(hydrocarbons, NOX, CO) in car exhaust to harmless compounds.(Water, C02, N2, N02)
    e)Urban development policy- seeks to address a wide range of issues exiting in metropolitan cities such as managing urban expansion and congestion, social inclusion, connectivity and environmental sustainability.
    f).Levy- is the act of imposing a tax on a particular thing.

  2. Bharat Stage: It is the emission standard norms of petrol and diesel run vehichles. It is a stage wise reduction in pollutant contents in the fuel so that less amount of co2 and other gases are released. The objective is to reduce the pollution levels in air and to make efficient use of resource.
    Levy:- It is the verb which means the act of charging a tax.
    URBAN DEVELOPMENT POLICY:- policy measures taken by the GOI to promote development in urban areas in known as urban development policy

    ASTHMA:- It is a disease characterized by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing.one who suffers from asthma faces difficulty in breathing caused due to the narrowness of the air way occured due to the swell in the line of passage.
    PARTICULATE MATTER:- PM is the mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in air which includes aerosols,smoke,fumes,dust , ash and pollen grain.
    Catalytic Converters:- it is a device incorpotated into the exhaust sytem of vehicles consisting of catalyst for converting pollutant gases into less harmful ones.

  3. 2. What is the relevance of standards like Bharat Stage VI?
    A.economic:- vehicles,GDP,make in india,
    social:-health,congestion, time
    geographic:-PM, CC,Imigration, resource
    Eventhough soumitra choudhri committee on autofuel policy constituted in 2014 recommended for the roadmap of auto-fuel policy for 2025, governmnt has taken a bold step by reducing the target to 2020.

    With the streamlining of the GDP on to the trajectory of growth, much progress in the manufacturing and industrial sector is calibrated. Hence, bringing up industries under the emission standards with immediate effect is the need of the hour to reduce the impact on environment. Moreover, there with the rise in level of incomes there will be more sale of automative vehicles which run on fuels. Hence it is high time to encourage the production of environment friendly vehicles which adhere to the BS-VI norms.
    Several diseases which are caused due to polluted air such as asthma, lung dieases especially in children are on rising trend.Hence by targetting the industries and vehicles the damage to the environment can be arrested over a period of time.
    employment oppurtunities act as pull factors which leads to immigration towards the cities and hence more vehicular traffic . Hence the government decision to introduce BSVI is the right step taken by the GOI.

  4. Bharat Stage- It is an emission standard which is set by the Central Pollution Control Board, which is under the Ministry of Environment and forest for implementation. This is basically to regulate air pollutants which is coming from internal combustion engine and is also applicable to motor vehicles.

    Asthma- It is a long term lung disease, wherein the airways( Which carries air to the lungs) narrows so it basically results in reduction of the air supply to the lungs.Those people who are suffering from asthma have swollen airways and it becomes very sensitive, which results in the airways to react with certain substances and particles when the victims inhale. Further mucus also narrows the airways.

    Particulate matters- It is the mixture of solid particles with water droplets. particles such as dust, soot mixes with water droplets. These particles can be inhaled by human beings which leads to respiratory diseases. The size of particles varies from 2.5 micrometers to 10 micrometers. The average human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter.

    Catalytic converters- It is one of the most essential part of emission system in a vehicle as it converts the harmful or toxic air pollutants into less harmful pollutants to produce carbon dioxide and water. The catalytic converter is a part of combustion chamber. This can result in 90% conversion of harmful gases that flows out of the vehicle.

    Urban development policy- It is the policy taken up by the state for development of cities and urban areas.housing, urban policy and urban planning in India are state subjects therefore it is upon the state to frame urban development policy or to legislate on these matters. The center can aid and assist the state by creating model legislation, providing fund and issuing certain directives. But states have been most of the time inactive in taking up these roles and often rely on National five year term plan or central government.

    Levy- It basically means to impose something on someone and the will of the subject is often not taken into consideration.

  5. Carbon Monoxide (CO)
    Source-mainly vehicles.
    aggravates heart disease

    Ground-level Ozone (O3)
    Pollutants it occurs due to chemical reaction of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and NOx in the presence of sunlight.
    Aggravates lung disease.

    Lead (Pb)
    Source-metal industries, waste incinerators and battery manufacturing.
    Aggravates disease related to nervous system, heart.

    Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
    source- fuel combustion and wood burning.
    aggravates respiratory diseases.

    Particulate Matter (PM)
    Source- chemical reactions, fuel combustion, industrial processes, farming (plowing, field burning), road constructions.
    aggravates heart and respiratory diseases.

    Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)
    source- fuel combustion and volcanic eruptions.
    Aggravates asthma.

  6. The Bharat stage failed due to various reasons:
    1. It led to the increase in prices of vehicle.
    2.the independent system who have to regularly checks the vehicle whether they are following the norms doesn't implement the policy strictly leading to various casualties.
    3.Regular failure of tracking system.
    4.there is no limit on carbon dioxide emission.
    5.applicability of the policy was reduced to very few cities.

  7. Obstacles in implementing the Bharat stage VI is as follows:
    1. the urban development policy favoring individuals interests rather than encouraging public transportation.
    2. vehicles leaning towards low-cost fuel outside city which causes more pollution.
    3.monitoring and regulating diesel vehicles remain poor.
    4. poor civic governance.

  8. 4. How do we measure the intensity of air pollution?
    A.Air Pollution is measured by the number of pollutants present in the air.The concentrarion /intensity is measured in parts per million by volume (ppmv), parts per billion by volume (ppbv) or parts per trillion (million million) by volume (pptv).

  9. Steps taken
    1. diverting the traffic during peak hours to other roads where traffic is less or negligible.
    2. creating separate lanes for auto rickshaws and buses to avoid traffic.
    3. changing the color of number plates of diesel vehicles so as to easily identify them and in case these cars are in violation of rules (not being regularly serviced or old) to take away the licences of the owner.
    4.ensuring that oil refineries and other industries which causes air pollution are well equipped to curb release of less harmful gases.
    5. ensuring that the car company uses catalytic converter and also empowering them to report to the respective authorities if the car owners doesn't come for servicing periodically as recommended and in case they don't report and collude with the car owner then fine can be imposed on the car owner.
    6.Increase the use of public transportation by giving free bus tickets to students, aged and differently able people.

  10. 5. Why did Bharat Stage IV fail?
    A. Bharat Stage IV emission norms failed due to the following reasons:-
    the implemetation of BS1V had not been on pan india scale .instead it was initiated in major metros.
    No allocation of special investments to the upgradation of the technology in large scale for both the vehicular industry and the fuel refinery industry.
    lack of immigration planning and less emphasis on Mass Rapid Transport System.
    administrative loopholes:
    the lack of infrastructure and dedicated personnel in tracking of the vehicles further muddled the water.
    lack of enough mobile enabled emission measurable infrastructure .

  11. 6. What are the obstacles in implementing BS VI?
    A. the following are the major obstackes in implementing th BS VI norms.
    1.There is lack of enough resources to upgrade the technology of refinery industry.
    2.the minimum life cycle of any vehicle is much higher than
    3. the lobbying impact of the industrialists on the policy decisions may led to uncertainity in policy measure.
    3.lack of awareness in people about the environmental effects of CC due to vehicular emissions.
    4.An increase of the burden on the consumer due to technology upgradation, which acts as obstacle for new one with BS-VI.
    5.corruptionn at groundlevel

  12. 7. Highlight the recommendations of Saumitra Chaudhuri Committee.?

    Methanol – is readily biodegradable, can be used directly or by blending with petrol, is already used in racing cars of China.
    Ethanol – burns cleaner and burns more completely than petrol, is an organic solvent, can be derived from Sugar cane juice and molasses.
    Hydrogen Fuel – Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE)’s Green Initiatives for Future Transport (GIFT). It has vision-2020 for Hydrogen.

  13. 7 . Recommended nationwide fuel standards to be BS-4. Upgrading refineries to produce Euro-V equivalent petrol and diesel will need ~Rs.80,000 crore.

    Cost can be met by a Special Fuel Upgradation Cess of 75 paise per litre on fuel.

  14. 9. A. Citizens are more concerned to save their money and least bothered for environment and hence they hardly want to spend on latest technology that is more ecofriendly.

    B. Unlike in China , Indians take proud in owing a motor vehicle rather than a bicycle.

    C. Fast moving life has encouraged people to own a private vehicle over using public transport as it would help to save time.

    D. Car pooling with a neighbour or friend is considered as an inferior job.

  15. 8. What steps would you take as an administrator to check the menace of air pollution? Suggest a few practical measures.

    promotion of environment friendly products as substitute for those causing air pollution
    encourage the role of NGOs, CSOs in protecting the environment through awards and rewards.
    strict ban on burning of leaves or waste is implemented.
    clean fuel like LPG, CNG, along with their benefits has to be promoted.