If done well, sticker scheme to give way to better pollution control measures

Colour-coded sticker scheme meant to regulate highly polluting vehicles will be implemented in October in Delhi-NCR

By Polash Mukerjee
Published: Thursday 20 September 2018
The aim is to identify the oldest vehicles using outdated technology and emitting highest amounts of pollutants. Credit: Vikas Choudhary

The Ministry of Road, Transport and Highway will soon add colour to the daily commute of the residents of National Capital Region. The ministry’s latest scheme, approved by the Supreme Court on August 13, aims to put hologram-based coloured stickers on petrol and diesel vehicles.

Petrol and CNG vehicles will bear light blue stickers, orange stickers will be stuck on diesel vehicles and all other vehicles will get grey stickers. This move is a result of a long litigation meant to distinguish between petrol and diesel vehicles and regulate use of the latter.

Features of the sticker

These stickers will act as third registration plates, which, according to the Motor Vehicles (High Security Registration Plates) Order, 2018, will be self-destructive, chromium-based hologram stickers that will be affixed at the left corner of the car’s windshield from the inside. The sticker is essentially a diffraction foil film with high reflective index.

The stickers will have details like name of the registering authority, vehicle’s registration number, laser branded permanent identification number and date of vehicle’s first registration.  

Fight against diesel

This matter of mandating distinguishing stickers for vehicles dates back to January 2016, when the SC had first asked the government and the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority for the NCR Region (EPCA), to regulate use of diesel vehicles. While the consequences of diesel emissions have been highlighted from time to time, but this time SC wanted the Centre to look at “phasing out old diesel vehicles”.

In March 2017, the EPCA filed a report with a Comprehensive Action Plan (CAP) for air pollution control in Delhi and NCR. This plan suggested specific steps to control emissions from various sources of air pollution. The CAP implied that the Centre must frame a definitive policy to disincentivise the use of private diesel vehicles.

As per various court orders and those by the National Green Tribunal, diesel vehicles older than 10 years (for commercial vehicles) and 15 years (for private vehicles) must be declared non-road worthy and de-registered. The use of petrol vehicles, which are more than 15 years old, has also been regulated. The aim is to identify the oldest vehicles using outdated technology and emitting highest amounts of pollutants.

Currently, these orders remain partially implemented. One way to ensure these highly polluting vehicles remain off roads is to have the transport department deregister them at the time of permit renewal. While this is only effective for commercial vehicles, many avoid going to the authorities and operate within city/state borders. Another method is police checking these vehicles on roads. However, here the problem is more extensive since setting up check posts slows traffic and adds to congestion and stopping each and every vehicle is close to impossible.

The sticker scheme will not only solve the problem of how to distinguish, but also enable authorities to determine the age of the vehicle.

Help create low emission zones

The stickers will also act as an important implantation tool for the creation and implementation of Low Emission Zones (LEZs). The LEZ regime is to demarcate a zone with critically polluted air and restrict use of motor vehicles there. These exist in several cities, where air quality is a concern, such as Paris, Berlin, Beijing and Antwerp. These cities have several stickers which decide if a vehicle can be allowed to enter LEZs or not based on the emission standards. Also, vehicle owners are charged heavy penalties if they violate the LEZ rules.

London has a ‘congestion zone’, where all vehicles except specified ‘green’ vehicles have to pay a congestion charge to enter. These cities then use these funds to mitigate air pollution locally.

One of the earliest examples of the use of a sticker/labeling system is Yellow Label Vehicles (YLVs) in China, which were given to old vehicles adhering to China I, II and older standards since 1999. The use of these YLVs were then subsequently restricted through policy mandates such as LEZs and differential fiscal policies for registration. China went one step further, and introduced incentivised vehicle scrapping policies, specifically for YLVs. Beijing has eight ring roads that are used as borders for LEZs, and by 2009, Beijing had restricted the entry of YLVs past the fifth ring road.

While creation of an LEZ is not an objective of the sticker scheme in NCR, it may be considered at a later stage. Once implemented, the stickers will give way to policy measures that are difficult to implement now. For instance, the Graded Response Action Plan for Delhi and NCR (GRAP), which says that during the most severe instances of air pollution authorities may enforce various car restraint measures. If properly implemented, stickers can be used to keep highly polluting vehicles off the roads of Delhi-NCR.

The sticker scheme, which will be rolled out in October, will be implemented through state transport departments and dealerships.

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