Policy Police | Centre for Science and Environment

Policy Police


Hush-hush public notice on emissions norms

We discovered this by sheer chance, buried in the website of the Union Ministry of Shipping Road Transport and Highways. This is a public notice soliciting public opinion on the unfinished agenda of the emissions standards roadmap finalised way back in 2003. This seeks Euro IV standards in 11 cities and Euro III in the rest of the country by 2010. But this notification was not given adequate publicity in the popular media. It is not even aiming to stir a public debate and animated scientific discussion.

MMT: Metal assault

In what seemingly looks like a diplomatic offensive to protect toxic trade, the US based company, Afton Chemicals, producer of fuel and lubricant additives, has lobbied hard with the US government to mount pressure on the European regulators to prevent the proposed ban on its product, Manganese Tricarbonyl Methylcyclopentadienyl (MMT), a very harmful octane enhancer for petrol. Afton has introduced MMT to replace yet another harmful octane booster tetraethyl lead. Both are neurotoxic metals added to petrol to boost octane and are produced and sold by the same company.

Great convergence: Health, climate and vehicles

The recently-released annual global energy trend tracker, World Energy Outlook (WEO), 2007 of the International Energy Agency, has sounded the alert on India crossing the tipping point of per capita GDP of $3000. This threshold, once crossed, says WEO, vehicle ownership rates begin to escalate rapidly. The rolling stock of vehicles continuously locks up huge amount of energy and carbon. Increases toxic emissions in our cities. Suddenly, widely different concerns have converged around vehicles – public health, fuel splurge and climate impacts.

CLEAN AIR HAS VOTES TOO

It is easy to take credit for success but not ownership for the problem. It is even easier if a small whiff of success allows you to wish away the problem altogether. Not more determined to solve it. The Assembly polls are only a fortnight away in Delhi. All political parties have pitched their battle cry to a crescendo. But there is not even a whisper on future action on air pollution. The political perception is that air pollution is under control. Illogical but true -- some action can breed more inaction!

Fiscal Planners: The Class that Failed

Hit where it hurts most. Improving technology to cut emissions is expensive. So let it be. No need to take care of the extra cost -- even if it means compromising on clean air and public health. So obtuse and damaging! But so are our finance mandarins in the North block. They have culled all proposals for a fiscal strategy to meet tighter fuel and emissions standards. This dismissal of fiscal solution to technology transition blocks further negotiation to tighten the dismally weak technology roadmap of the Auto Fuel policy.

The Right to Inform

Our government rarely ever looks at the air quality data it spawns. Data demands action. Feigning ignorance relieves such stress. Except that the Indian Judiciary does not allow easy escapes. The Union government was caught off guard in the recent Supreme Court hearing in the on going public interest litigation on air pollution in Delhi. It is the chief justice bench that looked carefully at the latest air quality data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

Devil's Engine

"We told you so!…" Facts prove us right and confirm our worst fears. Car registration data in Delhi point to an explosive trend in diesel passenger car sales -- a shattering 106 percent annual incremental growth rate since 1998-99 as against 12 percent for petrol cars. This murky detail is straight out of the computers of the State Transport Authority of Delhi. The city, working hard to douse toxic diesel particulates from its bus fleet with CNG, completely missed to notice the problem shifting around.

Modelling politics

Politics of fine print - yes, that’s what it is. The kind that crawl in without anybody noticing, but they change everything. The version of Auto Fuel Policy that got the Union Cabinet nod in October 2003 is not the same as the original recommendations.

NOXious trail

Over the last few weeks we were inundated with queries from the media. The air quality data produced by the apex air quality monitoring body in the country - the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) shows NOx levels in Delhi rising dramatically. Why? We were equally curious - has CPCB explained the reasons? According to media reports, the CPCB is blaming the CNG programme in Delhi for the rise in NOx levels.

Tale of low hanging fruits

The World Bank has finally released its policy guidelines on mobile source pollution for regulators in the developing region. What is significant is the global mobilisation of science that was made to bear upon the views of the Bank on technology leapfrog in developing countries. In its original draft, the Bank had censured the idea of technology leapfrog and declared it as inordinately expensive and an inappropriate model for such countries. It said pushing tighter fuel and vehicle standards without petroleum sector reforms could be inefficient and expensive.

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