Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) welcomes Mr Moily’s decision to slash CNG prices
Says the step will help public transport and clean up the air
New Delhi, February 3, 2014: CSE has welcomed the decision of the oil and environment minister Veerappa Moily to reduce the price of compressed natural gas (CNG) by Rs 15 per kg in Delhi. This amounts to a cut of almost 30 per cent in Delhi and a similar price reduction of about 25-30 per cent in other states. The Central government will now give CNG at uniform prices to all states with a distribution network.
This comes in the wake of price hikes in quick succession over the last couple of years that had narrowed gap between CNG and diesel prices. This hurt public transport – buses and autos – that use CNG.
The CNG programme was introduced under the direction of the Supreme Court to clean up the polluted air and cut toxic carcinogenic emissions from diesel vehicles in Delhi and other cities. The July 28, 1998 directive from the Court had asked all buses, autos and part of taxis to move to CNG. While asking buses to move to CNG, the Supreme Court had also directed the government to augment the bus numbers to 10,000. Thus, this is a crucial air pollution control measure that hinges on public transport augmentation plan based on clean fuel.
Responding to public health concerns and evoking the principle of ‘Right to Life’ in the Indian constitution, the Court had also directed in its order of April 5, 2002 that the national government give priority to transportation sector while allocating natural gas to cities. Also, in an order of May 9, 2002 the Supreme Court had pointed to the importance of encouraging CNG with fiscal measures; subsequently, it took on board the recommendation of the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) that a favorable fuel taxation policy be adopted to maintain an effective price differentiation between CNG and diesel.
Thus, keeping the CNG prices affordable is important to keep bus operational costs low and bus usage affordable for the masses in cities. Bus corporations in Delhi, Mumbai and other cities that have made massive investments to phase in CNG bus programme as a pollution control measure, are reeling under the rising CNG prices. CNG costs had already increased threefold since 2002 in Delhi. This creates pressure for bus fare revision which can hurt large number of commuters. Increase in bus fares will lead to steady erosion of ridership and a shift to two-wheelers whose operational cost is as low as Re 1 to Rs 2 per km.
Distorted fuel pricing policy must not undermine the CNG programme in the interest of public health protection. According to the World Health Organization and International Agency for Cancer Research, diesel emissions are a class I carcinogen for their strong proven link with lung cancer. The cancer-causing potential of diesel particulates and emissions is several times higher than some of the worst known air toxics.
CSE demands that this policy to keep CNG prices affordable and effectively lower than diesel must be sustained to promote public transport on clean fuel and cut public health risks.
Air pollution is the fifth largest killer and seventh biggest illness burden in India as estimated by the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) report. The speed at which urban air pollution is growing across our cities is alarming. Severe particulate pollution and newer pollutants like nitrogen oxides, ozone and air toxics are worsening the public health challenge. Vehicles are a special challenge as these are the fastest growing sources of air pollution.