Air Quality In India’s New Delhi Worsening, Government Advances Rollout Of Euro 6 Fuel Standards To April 2018

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The air pollution problem in northern India, and most specifically in New Delhi, is continuing to worsen — with PM 2.5 readings at the US Embassy there climbing to well over 600 ppm this week (the “safe” limit is 50 ppm).

As a partial response to the problem, India’s government will be advancing the rollout of the new Euro 6 fuel standards there by 2 years — with all vehicles operating in the capital now expected to use Euro 6 compliant fuels onwards from April 2018. This move of course doesn’t deal with the some of the primary causes of air pollution in the region — those being biomass burning, dust from construction sites, and industrial emissions — but they should certainly help somewhat.

As it stands, India relies on Euro 4 fuel standards, and had been intending to transition to Euro 6 fuel standards onwards from April 2020.

“This (new) measure is expected to help mitigate the problem of air pollution in NCT (National Capital Territory) of Delhi and surrounding areas,” a statement on the matter read.

As an explanation of why this matters — not just from the perspective of public wellbeing but also from an economic standpoint — the World Bank estimated back in 2013 that pollution problems were costing India as much as 7.7% of its GDP, and things have only gotten worse since then.

“Indian refiners are investing billions of dollars to upgrade their plants for producing Euro VI fuels. The new norms require gasoline and diesel to have a sulfur content of 10 parts per million down from 50 in the fuel currently in use,” Reuters reports.

“But the (agricultural) stubble (burning) issue has become more acute in recent years because mechanized harvesters leave more of a residue than crops plucked by hand. Such harvesters are increasingly popular in the wealthy northern states, where farmer lobbies are also politically powerful.”

A further action that could be taken to reduce the air pollution problems would be the rollout of “alternatives” (and funding) to direct farmers in northern India away from illegal stubble burning as a means of clearing their fields — but the estimated $600 million needed for this leaves the idea in limbo, as the various politicians involved haven’t yet come to terms about who will foot the bill for the proposal.

Such a plan would of course still not address the issues of industrial emissions and construction dust — only excess biomass burning. It should be noted here that New Delhi is now considered to be the most polluted city in the world … and home to some 20 million or so people.

Delhi also has an old 705 MW coal power plant inside the city and two other coal power plants on the outskirts of the city (1140 MW and 1820 MW). It probably wouldn’t hurt to shut those down.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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