With the country facing a severe air pollution challenge and the automotive industry being handed over the task to move towards sustainable mobility solutions as one of the countermeasures, discarding generation-old cars, two-wheelers and buses remains an onerous task with no concrete law or policy in place for end-of-life-vehicles (ELVs).
With the government proposing a VVMP (voluntary vehicle fleet modernisation programme) back in 2016 in the form of a draft policy, there has been no formulation of proper regulations as to how these decade-and-a-half old vehicles will be cremated to death. According to government estimates, over 28 million ELVs (older than March 31, 2005) across categories will be ready to be discarded by April 2020.
Apex industry body SIAM, in association with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF and CC) - Government of India, and ACMA, organised a day-long conference in New Delhi to discuss and debate on sustainable material management and environmentally safe disposals, on March 17.
The conference, a first-of-its-kind initiative, focussed on sustainable management of materials (international material data system - IMDS), tracking of hazardous chemicals, heavy metals and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), and discussed how to minimise their negative effects on the environment and human health.
SIAM says that the data provided on the above will facilitate the automotive sector, regulatory agencies, R&D institutions and ministries to engage in further discussions, negotiations and actions under the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, for which MoEF & CC is a nodal agency.
In his welcome address, Vishnu Mathur, director general, SIAM, said, “There is a need to institutionalise automobile recycling in India and figure out methods to dispose of ELVs in an environmentally sound manner. The purpose of this conference is to increase our knowledge, create awareness, capacity building and gain insights about IMDS and its regulations.”
Suggesting measures that can help to improve the air quality in India, Rashmi Urdhwareshe, director, ARAI, asserted, “We need an integrated approach towards clean air. Fleet modernisation can improve air quality. Private car electrification and the banning of old vehicles are some of the solutions we can look at. Road and public infrastructure pose a serious concern that must be addressed appropriately.”
“There should also be a control on the number of unused vehicles. There are 35 million vehicles plying on roads that have already exceeded the age of 15 years and manufacturers must start using materials that are reusable, the government should announce the ELV policy at the earliest and the ministry must notify AIS 129 standards immediately,” she added.
Stressing on the alarming rates by which vehicles are increasing on the roads and the serious pollution levels caused by them, Dr Bhure Lal (IAS), chairman, EPCA, said, “While talking about ELV regulations, we must consider the sustainability of ecology and environment. We need a policy in place to discard old vehicles as it could pose difficulty in future for humans.”
Sharing his views on the actions that need to be taken urgently, Justice Swatanter Kumar, former chairman, NGT and former judge, Supreme Court of India, said, “There are enough laws in regard to utilisation of dismantling material and control of vehicular pollution. We need policies to regulate the unorganised sector. We, as a country, are popular for doing wonders and we can also do wonders when it comes to controlling air pollution.”
Vinnie Mehta, director general, ACMA, added, “The automotive industry has been advocating vehicle scrappage since the past few years and we need to be more conscious of the environmental issues. We'll do our best to shield the future generations.”
ELV technical sessions
The day-long conference also saw detailed technical sessions with industry and regulatory experts projecting the current scenario and the way forward, while also showcasing learnings from other economies.
Throwing light on the CPCB guidelines for environmentally sound management of end-of-life vehicles, Dr Bharat Kumar Sharma, additional director, CPCB, stated, “With rapidly increasing number of vehicles on roads, the proper management, treatment and disposal of vehicles at their end-of-life becomes a pressing problem. The components present in these ELVs pose hazard to the environment as well as human health. Thus, at present we require a proper approach for an ‘environmentally sound management’ of ELVs in India. At the moment, the ELV recycling sector is lacking an enabling framework.”
The second technical session focused on implementation of relevant provisions of national and international regulations. Explaining the salient features and implementation issues of MSIHC rules, 1989, HOW(M&TM) rules, 2016 in the automotive sector, Dr Sharath Pallerla, director, ministry of environments, said, “These rules apply to an industrial activity in which a hazardous chemical may be involved. It is important to deal with the safety and environmental aspects associated with hazardous chemicals in the automotive sector so that the authorities can be well-prepared in case of an emergency.”
According to Dr A N Vaidya, NEERI, who spoke in detail about the implementation and challenges of international obligations in the recovery and recycling of hazardous chemicals in the automotive sector, “Automotive industry deals with many regulations. We need to recognise the adverse impact of chemicals on the environment and human health, and take feasible actions to combat it. The aim is to have international integrations in the recovery and recycling of chemicals in the automotive sector.” He further spoke on how international regulations function under different annexures.
Summarising the sessions that took place through the day, Prashant K Banerjee, executive director (Tech), SIAM, said, “With substantial increase in the number of vehicles in India, our objective is to improve the air quality by focussing on IMDS regulations and vehicle recycling. Although it is being followed in many countries, there is a need to institutionalise the same in India. Through this conference, we have set the stage to have thoughtful discussions on the solutions related to vehicle recycling and how it can improve the air quality to great extent.”
Interestingly, while the government is accelerating its electric mobility drive and is also skipping an entire generation of emission norms to leapfrog to BS VI in the country, both of which direct towards its consciousness towards the environment, a large portion of the existing commercial vehicle fleet, both passenger and goods carriers, comprises old vehicles which are running on extended life.
However, with general elections to be held in a couple of months, it does not look like the government will clear a vehicle scrappage policy soon, given that it could impact a large number of enterprises and transporters across the country.