CSE lays down recommendation on vehicle scrappage for post-pandemic green recovery

New Delhi (NVI): India needs a well-designed vehicle scrappage policy to lower emissions, reduce environmental damages, and recover material from clunker as part of a post-pandemic new green deal, CSE experts said.

A new report released today by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) draws attention to what should be the critical parameters of an effective vehicle scrapping policy – even as the country awaits the notification of such a policy prepared by the Union Ministry of Road transport and Highways for Cabinet approval.

While speaking at a webinar for the release of CSE report, executive director-research and advocacy Anumita Roy Chowdhury said, “There is an enormous opportunity to turn this policy into an instrument for green recovery. Bharat Stage VI emissions standards and electric vehicle incentives are in place and polluted cities have included old vehicle phase-out as part of their clean air action under the National Clean Air Programme.”

“The new policy must leverage these opportunities to maximise emissions gains from replacement of end-of-life vehicles and recover material from the wasted clunkers for reuse and recycling,” she added.

The report titled ‘What to do with old vehicles: Towards effective scrappage policy and infrastructure’, states that the policy needs to link economic recovery and fiscal stimulus with replacement of older heavy duty vehicles with BSVI vehicles. For personal cars and two-wheelers, scrappage scheme should incentivise replacement with electric vehicles.

By 2025, India will have a monumental load of over 2 crore old vehicles nearing the end of their lives. These, along with other unfit vehicles, will cause huge pollution and environmental damage.

Advent of the BSVI emissions standards and the electric vehicle programme are an opportunity to renew the fleet with significantly cleaner vehicles.

BSVI heavy duty vehicle are designed to emit 35 times less particulates compared to BS-I vehicles.

India has the opportunity to accelerate fleet renewal based on BSVI standards and zero emissions requirements to maximise public health benefits and material recovery. Designed well, this can ensure green recovery from the pandemic and lead to a long-term policy framework for environmentally sound vehicle end-of-life management practices.

The key highlights of the CSE assessment are:

Old vehicles – uncertain numbers: It is difficult to arrive at definitive numbers for older and end-of-life vehicles, as the vehicle registration database in India is cumulative and not corrected for retirement and scrappage. A CPCB-GIZ study of 2016 estimates that as of 2015, there were more than 87 lakh end-of-life vehicles andthis would increase to 2.18 crore by 2025.

Age profile of the Indian fleet: A survey carried out in 2015 in six cities found that 13 per cent of trucks, 8 per cent of buses, 5 per cent of three-wheelers, 3 per cent of cars and 7 per cent of two-wheelers were above the 15-year age limit. Moreover, if a broad retirement curve of 20 years for vehicles is considered, then — as of 2018 — about 69 per cent of the total registered vehicles are expected to have survived. The growing fleet of obsolete vehicles poses serious threats to the environment and public health. Cities are already facing problems due to old, junk and abandoned vehicles.

High pollution potential of older vehicles: In its consultation note of 2018, the MoRTH had mentioned that although commercial vehicles (such as trucks and buses, taxies and three-wheelers etc) constitute only about 5 per cent of the total fleet,they contribute nearly 65-70 per cent of the vehicular pollution. Of these, the older commercial vehicles, typically manufactured before 2000,account for 15 per cent of the total vehicular pollution as these pollute 10-25 times more than a modern vehicle. Fleet renewal of heavy-duty vehicles based on BSVI emissions standards can give significant benefits.

Fiscal stimulus package for green recovery: CSE’s new report argues that to maximise emissions gains from this initiative, it is important to prioritise the scrappage of old heavy-duty vehicles and replace them with BSVI vehicles. Also, if the stimulus package is extended to personal vehicles (two-wheelers and cars), then the public incentive programme along with voluntary incentives from the industry should be linked with electric vehicles. This is needed as an accelerator to stay on course to meet the target of 30-40 per cent electrification of the fleet by 2030.

Also, for national-level implementation, additional criteria for identifying grossly polluting and unfit vehicles based on fitness and roadworthiness, damaged vehicles, emissions performance etc are needed to guide the nation-wide programme. Age caps can work in pollution hotspots.

Policies on junk vehicles evolving in India – need stronger steps to upscale scrappage infrastructure: Polices related to older vehicles have already started to evolve in India. Currently, Section 59 of the amended Central Motor Vehicle Act of 2019 provides for fixing of age and restrictions on the plying of unfit vehicles. But this does not specify the criteria for defining end-of-life vehicles yet.

On the other hand, the CPCB has taken the step to frame the ‘Guidelines on Environmentally Sound Facilities for Handling Processing and Recycling ELVs, 2019’ to minimise environmental hazards from the disposal of old vehicles. The notification of the Draft Vehicle Fleet Modernisation Programme is awaited. These need to be enforceable to scale up scrappage infrastructure across the country.

Tap the global learning curve on green recovery: It is important to draw lessons from the major vehicle producing countries. Despite the pandemic and the resultant economic slow-down, governments across the world — as in Europe – have continued to link their stimulus packages with the electric mobility programme for a green recovery (as in Germany, Spain, Italy and France). The temporary stimulus measures must be leveraged well to maximise emissions gains.