While banning vehicles, which are more than 15 years old, is a noble idea, feasibility and scale of impact on pollution reduction is not known. It will also be a humungous task.
At the recently concluded annual convention of Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), the apex association of auto makers in the country, Vinod K Dasari, CEO & MD, Ashok Leyland (who was also the President of SIAM at that time), reportedly suggested a ban on all vehicles, which are more than 15 years old across the country, in a bid to reduce pollution.
“Auto industry is doing a lot of work to reduce pollution. We are working to move to BS-VI emission norms. In order to reduce pollution, we request the government to ban vehicles which are 15 years old,” he said to one of the leading dailies.
Banning of old vehicles has been debated in public, especially after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) passed a resolution in April 2015 to ban all petrol and diesel vehicles that were more than 15 years old from plying on the roads in Delhi and NCR. This led to a huge uproar. Following this, NGT passed another order in 2016 directing the authorities to deregister diesel vehicles more than 10 years old with immediate effect. According to the tribunal, one diesel vehicle causes pollution equal to 24 petrol vehicles and 40 CNG vehicles.
This phenomenon is not restricted to India, but globally there is trend towards banning old diesel vehicle. Paris (France) currently prohibits vehicles built prior to 2001 from being driven in the city on workdays. Similarly, the Netherlands has 13 ‘environmental zones’, in which commercial vehicles built prior to 2001 are banned.
Banning equals pollution control?
The automotive sector has always been ahead in terms of conforming to the new pollution norms set. The industry is now looking at Bharat Stage (BS) VI implementation. In diesel cars, the jump to BS VI norms (from BS IV) will result in reduction of nitrogen oxide emission by 68% and particulate matter by 82%. Similarly, in heavy-duty vehicles like trucks, the shift to BS VI norms would result in reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions by 87% and particulate matter by 67%.
With reports that SIAM has called for a ban on 15-year-old vehicles (petrol & diesel), the topic has gathered steam again. But the question is: Will banning of old vehicles lead to reduction in pollution? “We have nearly 30-35 million vehicles (across all vehicle categories) that are over 15 years old, banning these will result in reduction of pollution to some extent. Efficiency of these vehicles is low, maintenance is also not the best. Many of these vehicles have reached their end of life and are no longer road worthy,” opines I V Rajashree, Vice President, Feedback Consulting.
In addition to reducing pollution, recycling of vehicles will also be a revenue earner. India currently imports 5-6 million tonnes of scrap, recycling of 30 million automobiles that are old could result in recovery of nearly 10-12 million tonnes of scrap metal, says Rajashree. According to the Metal Recycling Association of India (MRAI), 1.11 million tonnes of scrap metal can produce 1 million tonnes of fresh steel.
Is banning feasible?
Given the fact there are around 30 million vehicles, which are more than 15 years old in India, the recalling or banning exercise will be enormous. “It is a humongous exercise no doubt, and especially in a country where the population of vehicles is nearly 250 million currently, of which 30-35 million are 15 years old. The number of 15-year-old vehicles is likely to grow multi-fold and reach levels of 75 million in the next five years and over 100 million in ten years’ time. This is not a surprise as India has added nearly 200 million vehicles in the last 15 years,” says Rajashree.
The challenges are more likely to be in implementation and how the old and the ELVs (end of life vehicles) are dealt with. In all possibility, these vehicles are going to move up the country-side and over time get abandoned in small garages or along the roadside, which is again harmful to the environment.
She elaborates, “An initiative such as this will have to be supported with appropriate policies and infrastructure for disposal of vehicles. Currently in India, the management and disposal of ELVs are essentially in the domain of the informal and unregulated sector, unlike several other countries that are in an advanced stage of automobile recycling where 85-95% of the vehicle is recovered. Countries are bringing in policies, regulations to this affect.”
Automobile recycling can be used extensively to help reduce waste, aid in the reuse of components and recycling of raw materials. End-of-life vehicles contain many materials and parts that can be refurbished and reused. Over 70% of an automobile by weight consists of metals like steel, aluminium, copper, lead, etc which are relatively easily recovered.
“With appropriate technologies and infrastructure, substantial quantity of rubber and plastics can also be recycled, components recovered and sold. We need to develop infrastructure which can deal with the dismantling of such vehicles and bring these into the mainstream. Not to mention the revenue loss to the exchequer as these are all in the informal sector,” points out Rajashree.
Will incentive work?
According to a report in The Economic Times in February this year, the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) gave an in-principle approval to the Roads Transport and Highways Ministry’s proposal to provide a package of incentives to remove old and polluting commercial vehicles (such as trucks & buses), which are older than 15 years, from the roads. The proposed policy, which is only limited to CVs at present, is now awaiting the Union Cabinet’s approval for implementation.
According to the government officials, the policy has the potential to reduce vehicular emission by 25% and save oil consumption by 3.2 billion litres a year. However, with passenger vehicles (the largest constituent of Indian automotive industry) being kept out of this policy, the positive effect on the environment will be limited.
So should the government or the industry (automakers) offer some incentives to all old vehicles? Giving an incentive would be like our erstwhile subsidies which will come back to haunt us, opines Rajashree.
According to her, the best incentive for an owner is the right value for his vehicle. Today, owners do sell their vehicles when they are no longer road worthy to scrap dealers located in the automobile scrap yards in the city or to local mechanics, who dismantle the vehicle, recover some components and sheet metal. However, this is not the best and most efficient process. There are issues related to the vehicle assessment value, deregistration of the vehicle that is not done and the full value of the vehicle is not recovered in the dismantling process.
Rajashree observes, “There is need for the government to draw up regulations for disposal of vehicles, enabling the development of an organised ecosystem which will encourage owners to sell their vehicles to organised dismantling units, provide for the infrastructure for recycling of these vehicles and build landfills for disposal of non-recyclable wastes.”
Creating awareness and educating customers on the benefits of such a system will be the starting point. “Various industry stakeholders such as automobile OEMs, auto component firms, motor insurance firms, financing firms need to come together and work with various Government organisations to help build this ecosystem,” believes Rajashree.
If plans to ban old vehicles from plying roads are successful, it will lead to rise in sale of new vehicles having latest technology. This will not only curtail pollution, but also improve the economy that is witnessing slowdown due to the double whammy of demo–netisation and GST.
India currently imports 5-6 million tonnes of scrap, recycling of 30 million automobiles that are old could result in recovery of nearly 10-12 million tonnes of scrap metal.
- I V Rajashree,
Vice President, Feedback Consulting