The Supreme Court banned sale of BS III vehicles
By Sameer Manekar
When I first heard of the Supreme Court’s decision to ban vehicles with BS-III engine, my first reaction was that of confusion. I had no idea what BS-III meant, what effect its banning would have on our lives, and wondered why the apex court would meddle in the automobile industry? People from different sections of the society reacted to the ban in their own way; the common man rejoicing the idea of buying his dream vehicle at a never-before discounted rate, while the auto-manufacturers unwillingly accepting the huge losses that they would have to incur.
After discussing with a few of my learned colleagues and taking the help of Google, I realised, albeit a titbit, what actually this decision meant. Apparently, vehicles with emission standards set at BS-III level (Bharat Stage-III), although helping in reducing pollution on a smaller scale, were not as contributory to reducing pollution and harmful emissions. This failure of BS-III restrictions led the government to implement stricter standards, and ban the sale of vehicles with earlier emission standards. Therefore, now a vehicle manufactured with BS-IV standards will have better engines that emit fewer pollutants, helping in reduction of overall pollution from exhausts. Although the usage of unexpendable cleaner fuels that would complement these engines would increase the costs of these vehicles and would mean extra few thousands at the consumer-end, the implementation of these standards would benefit not only the environment but also the health of people in the long run.
Now, as the hot, sunny day of 31st March wearied off, people with hopes of securing a bike or a car at an amazing discount rate returned to their homes disappointed. The majority of two-wheelers in the urban areas were sold out by the afternoon, with a discount as high as Rs 28000 in some cases. However, despite vehicles sale peaking on the last day, manufacturers were still up looking at huge financial losses. According to reports, around 8.42 lakh vehicles with outdated emission standards were on the sale when this order was impacted by the Supreme Court, incurring some of the leading automobile manufacturers a loss of around Rs 12000 crore. While all this seems extravagant and heavily damaging for the automobile industry, a crucial thing that misses everyone is the effect this unprecedented decision will have on the environment, in the short as well as long-term.
Buyers queued up to purchase vehicles at very discounted prices
According to a report by Greenpeace, around 12-13% of global warming is contributed by road transports and aviation and is estimated to go as high as 30% by 2050. A review paper in the Journal of Environmental Research and Development by R. K. Shrivastava, Neeta Saxena and Geeta Gautam clearly state that around 7-8 million vehicles are manufactured in India every year, with 141.8 million vehicles registered in 2011. India emits an estimated 261 tonnes of CO2, of which 94.5% is contributed by road transportation. Apart from damaging our biodiversity irreparably and putting our future in peril, as if these reasons are not enough to justify the ban, the pollutants emitted are trapped in the atmosphere and subsequently causes soaring up of pollution such as NCR Delhi experienced last year. And if the full consequences of breathing smog instead of air aren’t very clear, maybe schoolchildren living in the NCR would convey the adverse effects of pollution more clearly. A study conducted by the Kolkata-based Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (CNCI), which observed around 11000 students from 36 schools within a radius of 3 km for over 3 years found that as many as 5700 students suffered from poor or restrictive lungs, around 27.4% of them complained of a frequent headache, 11.2% of nausea, 7.2% of palpitation and 12.9% of fatigue. In another study conducted by the same institute, around 2000 adults of 6000 were found to have symptoms indicating major respiratory ailments. And this is keeping aside all the slow, disastrous effects pollution has on our beautiful green planet.
An interesting argument raised by some of the automobile companies is the sudden decision taken by the SC and not allowing for any sort of breathing time to convert BS-III vehicles to BS-IV. However, it should be realised that by no means the commercial interest of manufacturers is above the health of the public. Despite being notified of shifting to BS-IV vehicles, some top-notch manufacturers continued with the production of BS-III vehicles citing lack of cleaner fuel as the prime reason. It seems that for such industries, their commercial interest takes higher priority than public health and environment. While some of these industrialists have been booing the decision, some like Roland Folger, Mercedes-Benz India CEO & MD called it as “a lesson to be learnt by the industry to avoid recurrence of similar confusion when BS-VI norm is implemented in 2020.”
As a human being, I feel utterly saddened at the knowledge of ever increasing global warming. Not only are we destroying the nature for our futile greed, but slowly and steadily leading ourselves towards total annihilation and that too not in a single stroke, which would somehow make it easier. The emission standards that were agreed upon globally are being implemented 10-11 years tardier than the other influential nations; BS-IV standards that are being implemented in 2017 in India were enforced in the European countries in 2005. Not only are we behind in ensuring greener vehicles, but we are long overdue of ensuring a safer, greener environment. And thus, this step towards depolluting our air is equally if not more important and crucial in today’s age.