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India Unveils Policy on Auto Fuel

October 6, 2003

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ The Indian government announced a national policy on auto fuel Monday to curb growing air pollution in cities and towns.

The policy lays down a roadmap for achieving various vehicle emission norms by 2010, said Ram Naik, federal minister for petroleum and natural gas.

To produce cleaner fuel, the mostly state-run domestic oil refiners are expected to invest up to 300 billion rupees ($6.7 billion), while automobile manufacturers will be spending another 250 billion rupees ($5.5 billion) to make vehicles with better emission standards.

The policy sets an April 2010 deadline to ban the sale of any vehicle that doesn’t meet benchmark Euro-III emission norms established by the European Union. For 11 major cities, including New Delhi, the deadline has been accelerated to April 2005. These cities will further be required to meet the higher Euro-IV norms by 2010.

The government policy does not recommend use of any particular fuel, Naik said, in apparent reference to a Supreme Court order last year that made use of compressed natural gas mandatory for public transport vehicles in the Indian capital.

That order led to a prolonged controversy and several strikes by bus, taxi and three-wheel autorickshaw drivers. Yet all public vehicles in New Delhi are powered by CNG now, and the air is noticeably cleaner.

``We should be concerned about emission norms, not a particular type of fuel,″ Naik said.

He also said that the consumer may have to pay more as oil refiners try to pass on some of the additional cost of producing cleaner fuel.

Coming ahead of next year’s national election, the policy ignores suggestions to ban older vehicles.

Earlier efforts to clean up cities like New Delhi had seen local authorities banning commercial vehicles that had been in use for more than 15 years. But those measures could hardly be enforced.

Naik said the government would instead rely on an improved pollution checking system, conversion to cleaner fuel and improvement in the city public transport system to tackle air pollution caused by existing vehicles.

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