3rd November, 2003


E.C. Thomas*

The new auto fuel policy has laid out a roadmap to cut down vehicular pollution in Indian cities. It is an important step towards cleaning the air of vehicular pollution in the next seven years.

The National Auto Fuel Policy announced by the Petroleum Minister, Shri Ram Naik on October 6, 2003 envisages a phased programme for introducing vehicular emission norms in the country by 2010. The policy seeks to improve the fuel quality and vehicular engine specifications. It has proposed that liquid fuels remain the main auto fuel throughout the country and suggested the use of CNG and LPG in cities affected by higher pollution levels to enable vehicle owners have the choice of the fuel and technology combination.


The sulphur content in the fuel is the villain causing health damage through its exhaust. The Government adopted a roadmap to clean the air of vehicular air pollution in cities after the Supreme Court reprimanded it for laxity in curbing air pollution. The Central Government appointed an expert committee in September 2001 under the chairmanship of Dr. R.A. Mashelkar, Director-General, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), to suggest a roadmap taking the country to better urban air quality levels.

More stringent norms for fuels means steadily reducing the sulphur and aromatics content in petrol and diesel fuels. Euro II, for example, stipulates that sulphur be controlled at 350 parts-per-million (ppm) in diesel and 150 ppm in petrol. Aromatic hydrocarbons are to be contained at 42 per cent of the concerned fuel. The goal, according to the Mashelkar roadmap, is to reduce sulphur to 50 ppm in petrol and diesel and bring down the level to 35 per cent. Corresponding to the fuel, vehicle engines will also need to be upgraded.


The government has laid out a phased programme for introducing Euro-IV vehicular emission norms in the country by 2010, requiring an investment of Rs. 55,000 crore by oil and automobile companies in improving fuel quality and vehicular engine specifications.

The Bharat Stage II (equivalent to Euro-II norms), which is currently in place in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Pune, Surat, Kanpur and Agra, will be applicable to all automobiles throughout the country from April 1, 2005.

All automobiles and fuel-petrol and diesel – will have to meet Euro III emission specifications in these 11 cities from April 1, 2005 and Euro-IV norms by April 1, 2010.

The rest of the country will have Euro-III emission norm compliant automobiles and fuels by 2010.

For two-and three-wheelers, Bharat State-II norms will be applicable from April 1, 2005 and Euro-III norms would come in force preferably from April 1, 2008, but not later than April , 2010.

The domestic oil refineries which have already invested Rs. 10,000 crore to achieve Euro-I auto fuel specifications, would need to incur an additional investment of around Rs. 18,000 crore by 2005 and Rs. 12,000 crore by 2010. The investment requirement of the automobile industry is estimated at around Rs. 25,000 crore over this period.

As the modified road map for compliance of emission norms, the new policy has allowed that after April 2007, inter-State buses/trucks would not be allowed to originate or terminate in Delhi, unless they meet the minimum of India-2000 emission norms. The cut-off point for meeting Bharat-II norms will be April 2011.

Similarly, in respect to ten other cities, all inter-State buses will have to meet with effect from April 2006, a minimum of the 1996 emission norms, in case they were registered before April 2002. They have to meet with effect from April 2008, a minimum of India-2000 norms, if they were registered after April 2000.

In respect of ten other major cities, all inter-State buses would need to meet a minimum of Bharat II emission norms from April 2011 if these vehicles are registered after April 2005.

Apart from Delhi, the ten cities which are covered under the strict compliance of emission norms are : Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Pune, Surat, Kanpur and Agra.

As for new vehicles, the norm states that no vehicle could be sold in the entire country unless it meets the Bharat II norms after April 2005 and Euro III after April 2010.

In case of the 11 major cities, Bharat II stage has already been enforced as of April 2003 while Bharat III stage will be enforced from April 2005. Vehicles not having emission norms equal to Bharat IV norms would be sold in these cities after April 2010 under the policy.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas will ensure fuel quality while the Ministry for Road Transport and Highways will monitor the automobiles’ engine specifications. Pollution checks will be the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment.


The auto fuel policy has deviated from the Mashelkar Committee recommendations on two counts. Firstly, the fiscal concessions like excise duty relief have not been provided immediately. This aspect will be looked after in the annual budget. Secondly, the proposal to form a National Automobile Pollution and Fuel Authority has not been accepted and individual ministries will continue to monitor the standards. Inter-State buses/trucks would not be allowed to originate or terminate in Delhi after April 1, 2007 unless they meet the minimum of Euro-I emission norms. The cut off point for meeting Euro-II norms will be April 1, 2011. In other cities, all inter-State buses will have to meet a minimum of 1996 emisssion norms from April 1, 2006 and Euro-I norm from April 2008.

Critical of the Mashelkar report on the roadmap for cleaning the air of vehicular pollution, an environmental group feels that the Union Cabinet’s decision to accept the draft policy will not result in any substantial reduction in air pollution in Indian cities.

The Mashelkar roadmap prescribes an incremental approach for upgradation of fuel standard and vehicle design. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), an NGO, says there is enough evidence of people’s health falling victim to critical levels of pollution.

The policy says that most of the cities it targets will get Euro III standards, which are incrementally better than Euro II, in 2010. The CSE feels that this totally ignores Delhi’s experience of technological leap frogging with aggressive use of alternative fuels and quicker implementation of advanced emission norms.

Learning from the CNG experiment in Delhi, the CSE feels that air pollution levels have only stabilized. A lot needs to be done to bring down pollution levels drastically, it said.

The positive aspect of the policy on the phased reduction of auto engine emissions is that car making units and ancillary manufacturers will no longer have to bear the entire burden of the transition to Euro III norms over the next seven years. They must do their bit, of course. But, now onwards, the oil refiners too will have a major stake in lowering emissions, as car makers as well as fuel suppliers in 11 major Indian cities ready themselves to meet Euro III norms from April 1, 2005. But huge outlays like Rs. 55,000 crore would be even more vindicated if there is also a change in the mind-set of the private users towards greater public transport use. That will immediately slash fuel use as single passenger/driver cars yield space to bussing, or comparable modes of collective travel. Fuel use will be slashed to the extent that greater metro rail drives up power use.

This is the way matters have been moving in the developed countries. The suburban US commuters access commercial centres either riding bicycles or walking from the nearest railway station. In Japan too, the passengers who intend getting on to the famous ‘Bullet Train’ going to Tokyo, first travel to the station nearest to them; they then leave their bicycles or mopeds in the parking lots provided there. Progressive emission norms and the resources required to implement them must be seen as just one component of an efficient energy or pollution management in the society. This is why it is important to get more and more people using mass public transport even as we move towards zero emission norms.

The Supreme Court had strong-armed the government into enforcing strict vehicular emission norms in the principal metros. Its chief concern was with public health being put to serious risk by the polluting exhaust from the growing number of motor vehicles. Going a step further, the apex court had also insisted on the use of preferred technologies – such as CNG for buses and auto-rickshaws - in order to limit pollution levels that were choking the key cities. (PIB Features)

*Senior Freelance Journalist

[previous feature] [next feature]
Press Releases

English Reases
Hindi Releaelses
Urdu releases
Ministrywise Releases

  Today's Photogallery
Photo Archives
English Features
Hindi Features
  Contact Information
About us
Subscribe PIB Releases
Accredited Journalists
Important Links
Pesident's Office
Prime Minister's Office
Indian Parliament
Media Units
DD News
AIR News
GOI Website Directory