In a path breaking order that is certain to reduce to a great extent the atmospheric pollution of the smog choked Indian capital of Delhi, the Supreme Court of India has indeed taken a bold initiative. Notwithstanding the ire of car manufacturers, the order is likely to be a trendsetter benefitting the common man and planet earth.
Inhabitants of Delhi of course had a sigh of relief when the Supreme Court has ordered a temporary ban on the sale of large diesel cars in New Delhi to combat toxic smog in the city, even as some carmakers feel it will prompt them to reconsider investment plans in the country.
According to the Supreme Court order, the registration of sport-utility vehicles and other diesel cars with an engine capacity of 2,000 cc or more is banned in Delhi and the surrounding region with immediate effect until March 31. However Delhi’s crackdown on diesel cars has unsettled the industry, its salesmen and investors, who warn the ban and uncertainty around it could derail a tentative recovery in Indian sales and leave dealers with a heavy stock of unsold cars.
Environmental campaigners and the lawyer who brought the case to the Supreme Court, however, say they want to see the order extended beyond the capital to other smog-choked cities. One of the worst affected is Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, for whom the Delhi region represents almost a quarter of sales in the country. According to reports the ban and the uncertainty around it would severely impact growth plans and future investment in India. The affected car makers also fear that it would also result in job loss considerably in the diesel engine manufacturing sector and dealer points.
In public interest
The court, which said the order, would not hit India’s common man, stopped short of banning the smaller cars that clog India’s roads. But it did also prohibit trucks from passing through the city to reach other states and banned all trucks over 10 years old from the capital. An existing charge imposed on trucks making deliveries to Delhi itself was doubled up to Rs 2,600 rupees. Other measures include a demand for all taxis in Delhi, mainly those operated by Uber and local rival Ola, to replace diesel with natural gas, as well as a broad, immediate ban on burning solid waste.
Mahindra & Mahindra, India’s top utility-vehicle maker was one of the biggest losers with shares down 5.5 percent. It said the ban would affect roughly 2 percent of its total monthly sales. Rivals such as Tata Motors and Toyota Motor Corp, the world’s top-selling carmaker, also have popular large cars. Greater Delhi contributes 8 percent of Toyota’s sales and 80 percent of vehicles sold in this region are diesel. However the Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to lift the ban. The court’s decision on a bunch of petitions filed by automakers Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Toyota and Tata Motors came amid inputs that pollution levels in the city had gone down 30% following several steps taken under its careful watch.
These include diversion of commercial vehicles not bringing local supplies away from Delhi, higher environment cess on those entering the city and allowing odd-even vehicles to ply on alternate days. There’s another reason why banning sub-1.5-litre engines would make sense. Most of the vehicles running in the commercial category are powered by very basic diesel engines and most of them are either too old, or not adequately maintained adding to further to polluting the air quality in Delhi.
(Read the full story in the April issue of Safety Messenger Magazine 2016)