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Q. No compromise over air quality and vehicle emission: Comment on Supreme Court’s order of banning sale and registration of BS-III vehicles.
Mar 31, 2017 Related to : GS Paper-3

Ans :

Introduction-

Recently the Supreme Court observed that the health of the citizen is more important than the commercial interests of the automobile industry and ordered a freeze on the registration and sale of BS-III fuel compliant vehicles by any manufacturer or dealer on and from April 1. From April 1, the next level and environmentally friendly BS-IV fuel emission standards are scheduled to kick in. 

Analysis-

  • With the above order the court sends out the welcome message that short-term economic considerations cannot supersede public health concerns. 
  • With this order, some of the automobile companies, notably those manufacturing two-wheelers and commercial vehicles, have suffered a blow as they must now deal with unsold inventories of the obsolete models.
  • The 2017 deadline for a nationwide shift to BS-IV had been repeatedly emphasised in various forums and even reiterated by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas in its review of the Auto Fuel Policy nearly two years ago.
  • But there was some confusion about whether April 1 was the deadline for the manufacture of BS-III models or their sale. Now the court’s order means that a little over eight lakh BS-III vehicles will have to be either upgraded or sold abroad. 
  • Currently 30% to 50% of total on-road emissions came from vehicles older than 10 years, or about 17% of the fleet. Hence it is unlikely that the court’s uncompromising approach will have a significant impact on reducing air pollution.
  • Now, the requirement for manufacturers to adjust to the new reality should serve as a reminder that they, and the fuel companies, must prepare for the next big deadline, an upgrade to the BS-VI standard by April 1, 2020, leapfrogging BS-V. 
  • Hence now government has to ensure that the objective of the Supreme Court’s order is met, and the ‘one fuel, one country’ goal for BS-IV is fulfilled. This is crucial to ensure that the catalytic converters of newer vehicles are not affected by lower-grade fuels.

Conclusion-

The recent apex court order of banning sale and registration of all BS-III complied vehicles is aimed at protecting human health overriding the commercial interest. Now government should ensure that any such plans to shift from one phase to another phase be planned properly in advance and must effectively implement it, as it is most necessary to protect human lives from ever increasing pollution.


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