Beijing may surge ahead in this `Long March'

NEW DELHI OCT. 5. Through the Compressed Natural Gas programme, Delhi may have stolen a march over its Chinese counterpart, Beijing, but India's northern neighbour is taking long strides in adoption of cleaner fuels and related technologies which may see Beijing emerge the cleaner of the two big cities in the years to come.

Making this observation, visiting United States-based international expert, Michael P. Walsh -- who has come to conduct a study for Centre for Science and Environment -- said, "Delhi in particular has moved quickly in certain areas, such as introduction of CNG run public transport, making mandatory use of Euro II technology in new vehicles and using lead-free petrol.''

But beyond that, it appears to have hit a wall. Noting that it was important for cities like Delhi -- which have a huge population of both men and vehicles -- to advance pollution control, Mr. Walsh said investments were needed to take the campaign to its logical end.

Citing the example of Beijing to buttress his point, he said at the moment, he said, Delhi has more CNG buses than Beijing -- where 1,800 vehicles have been put on this mode of fuel -- but this equation could soon change. For, not only has the transition from diesel to CNG been more smooth, new pipelines are also being laid for ferrying natural gas into the Capital of China.

Gradually, he said, the use of coal for power generation, industrial use and residential heating in Beijing is being replaced with natural gas. The city now also boasts of a reliable, clean and comprehensive bus system and is in the process of adding three more Metro lines ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

And China -- which overall uses diesel with 2,000 parts per million of particulate matter as against about 400 ppm by India -- is also on its way to adopt cleaner Euro IV technology by 2010, which is the national target in its 10th five year plan. Further, more cities like Shanghai are now adopting CNG for transportation needs.

With India still debating on how soon it should achieve Euro IV targets, the expert feels it is time the country realises the social benefits of cleaner fuels and technologies. "The investments can be offset through a less than 5 per cent increase in fuel costs over a period of time.''

Stating that CNG is comparatively cleaner than the diesel India and China are using at present, the expert said the problem with diesel is the higher particulate emission which is an air hazard and higher emissions of oxides of nitrogen. Also, he said, some studies have found diesel to be a "likely human carcinogenic''.

Mr. Walsh said all countries also need to view emission norms in terms of global warming and should go for cleaner fuel technologies. He said countries like Sweden have already adopted nearly Euro V technologies and were using diesel having as low as 10 ppm of particulate matter.

On cutting down pollution levels in the short terms, Mr. Walsh called for curbing growth of two-stroke two-wheeler technology, encouraging installation of catalytic converters therein, phasing out old vehicles gradually without hurting the poor and adopting strict emission standards.

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