Increasing Number of Cars in Delhi Undoing Clean Air Gains; A Call to “Reverse Automobile Dependence”
|More than half of the Indian cities monitored during 2004 recorded critical levels of PM10. Click to enlarge.|
The increasing number of private vehicles in Delhi is putting the city at risk of losing its hard-won gains in cleaner air, according to a new publication from the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
The new publication, The Leapfrog Factor: Clearing the air in Asian cities, also notes that an increasing number of Indian cities, a number of which are small, non-metropolitan entities, are turning into “smog-encased pollution hotspots.”
Delhi would have been buried under a pollution load of 38% more particulates if the Supreme Court had not intervened to introduce cleaner fuels and emissions technology in the city, such as introducing CNG for city buses.
The city has seen the introduction of some 100,000 CNG vehicles within a span of five years, and currently has the largest CNG public transport fleet: 10,600 CNG buses. The city has also improved fuel quality with low sulfur and benzene limits, and introduced Euro-3 emissions requirements in 2005.
But, according to Anumita Roychowdhury, associate director, CSE and head of CSE’s Right to Clean Air campaign:
The most worrying trend in Delhi is that while the technology roadmap remains sluggish, the sheer numbers of vehicles are overpowering the change. Unbelievably, as much as 17 per cent of the cars in India run in Delhi alone. It has more cars than the total numbers of cars in the individual states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and West Bengal.
The congestion and pollution crisis is building up not only in Delhi, but in all Indian cities because a large share of daily travel trips is being made by personal transport, according to the report. A car caught in congestion can early quadruple its emissions. Cars and two-wheelers take up nearly 90%, carry fewer numbers of people and pollute excessively.
As a result, according to the authors, public transport is collapsing in most cities. Only eight of the 35 cities that have more than a million population have dedicated bus services; even these are under extreme pressure. While India’s metro cities need to support approximately 80 million trips daily, the available rail and bus transport can support only 37 million.
Although some of India’s larger cities have seen a decline in their pollution levels, as many as 57% of all the cities monitored in the country have critical PM10 levels (more than 1.5 times the standards). Newer and smaller cities are more polluted than even the metros.
The health impacts are enormous. Each year, according to the World Health Organization, air pollution accounts for 0.8 million deaths and 4.6 million lost life-years worldwide; two-third of this occurs in developing Asian countries, and India alone accounts for more than 0.1 million premature deaths annually.
|India’s metro PM and NOx standards relative to US, EU and Japan. Click to enlarge.|
Two-wheelers and increasing dieselization pose significant challenges for India, especially given the relative laxity of the country&rquo;s emissions requirements for passenger vehicles. Diesel vehicles will dominate nearly 50% of new car sales in the country by 2010, according to the report.
Although India has some of the strictest emissions standards in the world for two-wheelers, a new two-wheeler in India emits 1.5 times more CO and 8 times more HC+NOx than and new Euro-4 in Europe.
The only way out, according to CSE, is to “reinvent the idea of mobility.” Accordingly the publication makes a series of policy recommendations:
Implement radical solutions within a short time-frame for long-term gains.
Cities should base themselves on public transport, and manage their mobility by restricting cars.
Leapfrog to cleaner vehicle technologies and fuels to cut exposure to toxic fumes.
Introduce fuel economy standards to improve energy efficiency of vehicles.
Use fiscal incentives for propelling change.
The Leapfrog Factor: Clearing the air in Asian cities (Presentation)