Jul 012012

The Vehicle Emission Testing programme needs to be overhauled to tackle air pollution

This article by Krity Shrestha was published on The Kathmandu Post on 1 July 2012

JUN 30 – Nepal has been considered the “world’s worst performing country in terms of air quality” in the recent Environmental Performance Index. With the bowl-shaped topography of Kathmandu Valley and the impounding effects of bad air quality on our health and economy, it is time that we seriously contemplate and take some steps to control our air pollution. Motor vehicle emissions are one of the major sources of air pollution in Kathmandu Valley. With more vehicles on the roads than ever before, modal shift from public vehicles to private vehicles and poor maintenance of in-use vehicles, vehicle emissions are on the rise.

Over the past, Government of Nepal has formulated two types of emission standards to control mobile air pollution sources: Nepal Vehicle Mass Standards 2056 and Vehicle and Transport Management Act 1993; these acts focus on emission testing for new and “in-use” vehicles, respectively. Nepal has a government-owned, centralised Vehicle Emission Testing (VET) programme, which is conducted by the traffic police division and the Department of Transport Management. Vehicles have to undergo examinations at one of four government-owned testing centers within the Valley. The passed vehicles are issued a “green certificate” sticker. The VET procedure is not compulsory for the renewal of annual license of motor vehicles, and it is limited only to the heavy duty vehicles, light-duty four-wheelers and three-wheelers running within the Kathmandu Valley Ring Road boundary. Motorcycles are completely excluded from VET.

The major objective of any VET program should be to control the mobile air emissions by encouraging proper maintenance of vehicle engines. The process should be done in phases, and it should include all types of vehicles. The standards must be set to accommodate all present vehicles and should be flexible, at first, in order to attain a smaller failure percentage. Proper repair facilities with sound technical knowledge should complement the VET program. Then, in due time, standards should be tightened to ensure controlled emissions. The VET centers should be easily accessible, transparent and honest to ensure effective mobile emission control.
Presently, the transport scenario of the Valley has changed drastically. The pollution problem has augmented substantially due to continuous increase in vehicle population in the Valley. There has been a phenomenal modal shift in the transport sector. The growth in ownership of private vehicles, especially motorbikes, is unsustainable.

With the distribution of Euro III standard petroleum products in the Valley, the vehicle emission standards targeted for Euro 1 vehicles are now outdated. Our emission testing is limited only to “Green sticker” issuance; the maintenance of vehicles is not yet considered an important parameter while renewing the annual license of vehicles. Yet vehicles with expired green stickers can be seen on roads throughout the Valley. Even with the wide standards, more than 50% of vehicles fail. The penalty for non-complying, failed, polluting vehicles is minimal. Also, the prevalence of malpractice and temporary engine adjustments before emission tests in various auto-workshops, as well as the seeping corruption at every level of inspection, further contributes to the poor maintenance of vehicles and the worsening air quality of the Valley.

The air quality of the Valley is worsening day by day. Our health and economy are also deteriorating. Hence, the major culprit—vehicle emissions—has to be addressed urgently. Serious considerations have to be made at the policy level, as well as the grassroots level. It is time that the government sits with all the stakeholders and addresses vehicle emissions strategically.

Shrestha is currently studying Vehicle Emission Testing Program Framework at the Ministry of Environment, Sri Lanka

Posted on: 2012-07-01 08:15

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