Bus owners to oppose emission tests as govt. fails to provide cleaner fuel


By Ifham Nizam

The Private Bus Owners Association of Sri Lanka yesterday vowed that that they would campaign against the Vehicle Emission Testing Programme (VET)unless the Petroleum Ministry took steps to produce diesel with low Sulphur levels.

The VET programme was jointly implemented by the Environment and Natural Resources and Transport Ministry in 2007 to reduce dangerous gases that cause air pollution.

The Association’s President Gemunu Wijeratne told The Island Financial Review yesterday (10)that it was the Supreme Court that gave a decision to provide diesel with low Sulphur levels in January, 2011.

Wijeratne says that there is no point in having a VET programme, if basic implementation was not done.

"To-date nothing has happened on the implementation. Other than the buses, the impact on smaller vehicles that depend on diesel is huge," he added.

He says that the present standard on Sulphur levels is very much higher than the international standards. Presently the Sulphur level is 3,000 parts per million (PPM), priced at Rs. 76 per litre at the pump and the recommended standard is 500 PPM, at Rs. 89 per litre.

Studies done by former National Transport Commission Chairman Professor Amal Kumarage indicates that health damage alone due to auto diesel costs Rs. 22-17 billion.

Diesel vehicles are responsible for 96-89 per cent of Sulphur and PM10 (Particulate Matter) that causes respiratory and other diseases including cardio problems.

Finance and Planning Ministry’s Development Finance Director General Don S. Jayaweera told The Island yesterday that providing oil with lower Sulphur levels were recommended in the Road Map to Cleaner Fuels.

However, he says there was a delay in the implementation due to funds.

He said that according his understanding it would postponed till 2013.

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), one of India’s leading environmental think-tanks recently told a workshop in Colombo that Sri Lanka incurs a massive financial and human-hour loss due to traffic congestion.

Vehicles are reported to be responsible for 60 per cent of the air pollution load but the CSE says, Colombo has the advantage of the cleansing effect of the sea breeze and also has its strength in high usage of public transport.

In Sri Lanka, diesel vehicles make up 45 per cent of the total fleet. Estimates show that the transport sector uses up more than 90 per cent of the country’s diesel fuel.

The CSE stated that while Diesel cars may emit less carbon dioxide compared to their petrol counterparts as they are more fuel-efficient; this benefit is at risk of being negated as diesel fuel has more carbon content than petrol.

Moreover, there are serious health concerns over increased use of high sulphur poor quality diesel. Even the carbon soot from diesel vehicles is known to be contributing to global warming.

The Air Resources Management Centre of the Environment Ministry says they have initiated a first generation action to clean up the air.

A spokesman said that their programme includes mandatory annual vehicle emission testing programme launched in 2008, import ban on two-stroke engines; conversion of three-wheelers to LPG/electric; construction of refinery that can produce Euro IV diesel by 2012; and planned introduction of  Euro IV in 2012. This has led to a drop in PM10 levels in Colombo.

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