In a significant verdict, the SC restrained the BS-III vehicles from April 1 2017 when BS-IV emission norms would come into force. The SC bench ruled that health of millions of citizens was more important than commercial interest of few manufacturers. Hence the government was directed to disallow sales of BS-III vehicles post 31st March 2017.
This has left an unsold inventory of 1.824 lakh BS-III vehicles with 41 automobile firms who have collectively manufactured 13 crore BS-III vehicles.
Auto industry perspective
The process of change should be a gradual one. The previous targets of fuel change were not met because the automobile targets had not met. Now, one year’s time was required to dispose the inventory of BS-III vehicles and bulk of stock can be sold in 7-8 months. Not giving the industry that much time has inflicted burden on firms. The auto industries are ready to take away the inventory from the dealers and sell it abroad where BS-III norms are applicable. They had also given heavy discounts on sale of vehicles in last two days. The industry has agreed to comply with the norms. They had just said that some time was needed to comply with the directions.
Also, the automobile companies had stated that lack of BS-IV fuels prevented them from selling such vehicles nationwide. While no one pushed for BS-IV fuel availability for 7 years, a sudden decision has causes undue stress to the entire industry and loss of jobs.
Why sudden decision?
However, this reform was a gradual one. The SC had observed that automobile companies knew about BS-IV notification in 2014. When they were aware of such developments, they should have scaled down production.
The decision on this was long pending. In 2010, it was informed that BS-IV will be implemented. This was done to protect the health of the citizens as health and air quality was the priority. Government also invested huge amount in cleaning up the fuel, approx. 30000 crores have been invested between 2010 and 2017. This means that new technology is available in the market. The norms have to be followed now by auto makers as well as fuel companies.
Prior the court order, it was seen that manufacturers kept on manufacturing outdated vehicles as per outgoing technology till very hand in the hope that SC will allow the sales for another year or so. The expected did not happen and thus it is a lesson for manufacturers that they can no more push the outdated technology at the cost of health of people and environment. The automobiles should have scaled down the production of old technology in advance.
Health and pollution
Whenever there is development, there is emission, where there is emission, there is going to be pollution. Where there is pollution, there will be health impact. Thus it is the duty of government and other sectors to make a balanced development so that environment is free from pollution. But it is not possible to make environment pollution free.
Achievable targets should be adopted and complied. Keeping these issues in mind, the upgradation from BS-III to BS-IV is a huge transformation. The sulphur content, aroma, particulate contents will be less. There is also a looking forward of upgraded version of engine so that the entire fuel is burnt. When this happens, only Co2 and water will be released into the environment which are not considered as pollutants which cause damage. Thus BS-IV introduction is a welcome step. The difference between BS-III and BS-IV is the emission of carbon particulate matter. BS-III vehicles emit 2.30 mg of CO per kg of fuel, the emission drops to 1 mg of CO per kg in BS-IV vehicles. In the heavier vehicles, the difference is even more. Similarly hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emission which are a big concern for two wheelers will also come down by 41% and 81% respectively depending on engine size.
Also, if BS-III fuel is used in BS-IV vehicle, it can harm the equipment in the vehicles. If the balance is not maintained in the converters, there is going to be a damage to vehicle and create more pollution in environment.
Any development can be made in three directions-
The technological benefit is available in the world, so it must be used. With its usage, there is an environment benefit due to less pollution. These are areas where people and environment will be benefited.
The benefits of BS-IV over BS-III were well known. The government came out in support of the automobile industry to extend the sale of BS-III vehicles. When the SC is protecting two issues- environment and technological, the government may be in favour of economic benefits. The economy is critical point in working of the government as stability in economy is one of the target of government. It may be the reason for government’s support of auto industry
India will be going to adopt BS-VI, skipping BS-V, in 2020. These norms will be equivalent to Euro 6. It is seen as a major step forward in cleaning the air. It is probably a point of time when Indian fuel standards will match with international standards. It is scientific judgement to move to BS-VI as once the BS-IV norms are achieved across India, it is achieving 90% target of BS-VI. It is so because the fuel quality improvement from BS-III to BS-IV is huge but the fuel quality from BS-IV to BS-VI is not that much.
Along with fuel, congestion in urban areas should be lessened to maintain vehicles life and quality. For this, there is requirement of traffic rules and traffic maintenance.
It is a great victory for public health where the SC has upheld importance of public health and right to life and established that commercial interest of industries cannot supersede public health concerns.
Connecting the dots:
In a scale of balance between environment and economy, the apex court chose environment. In the light of above statement, discuss the impact of recent SC decision.
In the tug of war between development of economy and conservation of environment, who wins is not important but how one gets superior over another matters. Critically analyse.