The NDA government’s intent to test all diesel vehicles in the country, though difficult, is timely. With German-based Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker, voluntarily recalling 3.23 lakh cars — the biggest recall in India so far — the authorities’ precautionary measure to test if all diesel vehicles plying on our roads comply with fuel emission norms, uncannily, coincides with the growing unrest over rising air pollution levels, both in India and abroad. But testing of diesel vehicles makes sense only when commercial vehicles plying on the roads are included. It’s a known fact that, as far as passenger cars are concerned, India has long been a petrol-driven market with diesel-makes gaining traction only in the past decade. On the other hand, a large number of commercial vehicles like trucks and lorries are diesel-run. This is also the segment, where vehicle-owners tend to replace vehicles rarely, even if it means they aren’t current Euro-3 or Euro-4 compliant.
With over 18 crore vehicles, India’s air pollution levels are rising alarmingly. The government, on a priority basis, must advance our fuel emission norms on a par with developed nations, which are currently running on Euro-6. Right now, just 13 cities have Euro-4 norms. As pointed out in these columns earlier, a think-tank must be set up to strengthen our emission testing standards. Strict enforcement of simple measures like switching off engines while waiting at signals in traffic-prone zones and during traffic jams, will not only help reduce both noise and air pollution to some extent, but also inculcate vehicular-discipline among drivers. Vehicle owners, on their part, should make an effort to maintain proper speed, which ensures limited pollution. Enforcing such simple measures could be a good start on the way to road rationing. All the States could take the cue and start implementing these measures with immediate effect.