Road Transport in India 2010-30 - Emissions, Pollution, and Health Impacts

India Road Transport - Diurnal Variation of PM10 ConcentrationsThe animation to the right is modeled particulate matter concentrations with diurnal variation in emissions from the road transport in India.
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India is the 7th largest country in the world covering an area of 3.5 million square km and has a population of 1.2 billion. According to 2011 census figures, 30 percent of India’s population lives in urban areas and the rate of urbanization is growing steadily due to the push/pull effects of employment opportunities and the declining viability of the agricultural sector. This, in addition to the fact that India now has the 4th largest economy in the world - $4.463 trillion (2011 est.), has resulted in a large and growing movement of goods, services, and people fueled by trade and employment opportunities – almost all of which is powered by fossil fuels.

A growing demand of passenger and public transport has led to more air pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A study conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board (New Delhi, India) in six cities – Delhi, Kanpur, Bangalore, Pune, Chennai, and Mumbai, concluded that the transport sector contributes to more than 30 percent of the ambient air quality in these cities – either directly from the vehicle exhaust or indirectly via the re-suspension of dust on roads due to vehicular movement. According US Energy Information Administration, India's transportation energy use will grow at about 5.5 percent a year – significantly higher than the world average of 1.4 percent per year, more than quadrupling the total energy use from the road transport in 2035. Likewise the per capita energy use for passenger vehicles in India is estimated to increase threefold.

Besides major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Ahmedabad, the secondary cities (with population more than 2 million) like Pune, Surat, Indore, Bhopal, Nagpur, Jaipur, Varanasi, Nagpur, Agra, Guwahati, Patna, Kanpur, Panaji, Trivandrum, and Cochin, are growing both geographically as well as in population, putting pressure on local infrastructure.

India Road Transport - Modal Shares in Indian Cities

The increase in traffic along with inadequate infrastructure facilities is responsible for higher emissions of local pollutants and GHGs in several of these cities. While the message is clear; with the growing air pollution and GHG emissions from the transport sector in cities and at the national level, regulatory agencies will have to take a quantum leap, especially in terms of managing traffic in cities and freight at the national level. They will have to implement radical solutions ranging from technical, social, policy, to economic, within a short time-frame for long-term gains. This study focuses on the energy and emissions outlook for the transport sector in India which could effectively result in a co-benefits framework for better air quality management in the cities and a national climate policy dialogue

India Road Transport - Promoting Public Transport Penalosa

India Road Transport - Share of Vehicles in India in 2010The total registered vehicle fleet in India is 112 million in 2010 (click here for total registered vehicle fleet by State for 2010). Of the passenger transport fleet, 2-Wheelers are very popular due to their cost, fuel efficiency, and ease of use in congested traffic. All the vehicles (motorized and non-motorized) are utilized for multiple purposes, for both passenger and freight transport, varying loading conditions, at all terrains from high altitude Kashmir to the plains of Tamilnadu and Kerala. While the total vehicle numbers have increased significantly between 1990 and 2010, the per capita rate of ownership of private cars in India is still lower than many of the European Nations, United States, and Canada. As incomes rise, car ownership will increase proportionately and consequently the total emissions and pollution. We estimate that the total fleet will increase to 500 to 600 million by 2030, based on low and high sales growth projections, with major of the passenger fleet concentrated in the urban centers.

India Road Transport - Emission Shares by Mode in 2010The emissions inventory is built for the following pollutants – particulates in two bins (PM10, PM2.5), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOC), black carbon (BC), organic carbon (OC) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2), for the period of 2010 to 2030 under the business as usual and some control scenarios (click here for total emissions by State and by pollutant for 2010)

Emissions from the transport sector are a result of multiple factors - including but not limited to, vehicle fuel standards, badly maintained roads and public transport vehicles, lack of transportation and urban planning, adulterated fuel, aging fleet, and freight movement. There cannot be a silver bullet to address this issue and one cannot have an impact on emissions from transport using only one policy instrument. For instance improving vehicle standards by itself will not reduce pollution, unless it is accompanied by a host of other complementing policies. While technological improvements and stricter emission standards will decrease the on-road emissions, factors such as a greater number of vehicles (diesel fueled in particular), the large number of short trips and traffic congestion – may offset the benefits derived from these improvements. A summary of results from business as usual and assumed “what-if” scenarios is presented below.

India Road Transport - Energy and Emissions Outlook to 2030

It is assumed that the actual emissions in 2030 could be anywhere between the red line (business as usual - BAU) and the dotted black line (LE5-15UPT = lower sales projections with introduction of Bharat 5 (equivalent of Euro 5) standards by 2015, with an aggressive urban passenger transport policy to promote public transport and non-motorized transport, in order to reduce 25 percent of the vehicle kilometers traveled from passenger vehicles).

The total emissions are further gridded to a spatial resolution of 0.25° grid size covering an area between 7°N to 39°N in latitude and 37°E to 99°E in longitude, utilizing (a) gridded population (b) gridded road density maps (c) activity maps like ports and airports that are hot spots to freight movement (d) urban center locations that are hot spots to the passenger travel (e) landuse maps distinguishing populated, agricultural, mining, and forest areas. These layers of information, along with modeling results are present in the panel of maps.

India Road Transport - Gridded Emissions for PM NOx CO and SO2

We utilized the Comprehensive Air Quality Model with Extensions (CAMx), an Eulerian photochemical dispersion model that allows for integrated assessments of gaseous and particulate pollution over many scales ranging from sub-urban to continental, to calculate the ambient particulate (PM) concentrations for emission projections between 2010 and 2030.

India Road Transport - Modeled PM10 Concentrations

The meteorological data for the dispersion modeling is derived from the National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) global reanalysis and processed through the RAMS version 6.0 meteorological model. Visit for animations of surface wind speed and direction, precipitation, and mixing heights for year 2010 at 2 hour interval.

Surface Wind Fields in November
Total Precipitation in August
Mixing heights in May
Surface Wind Fields over India in November
Total Precipitation over India in August
Mixing Heights Over India in May

Air pollution disproportionately affects those most vulnerable (sick, old, and children) and in India, those with means travel in cars and use air conditioning indoors, which to a small extent insulates them from chronic pollutant exposure. However, most people are directly exposed to pollution on road corridors or those living along the roads bear the brunt. Health impact analysis following the dispersion modeling under various scenarios, estimates the mortality and morbidity as a result of particulate pollution using concentration-response functions from extensive epidemiological studies. This in all likelihood is a gross underestimate that captures only the direct impacts of air pollution (respiratory illness, allergies etc.). The indirect impacts of exposure to pollutants are many - an increase in inflammation, cardiac conditions, decrease in fertility, cancer, premature birth, among others.

Modeled PM2.5 levels in 2030 under BAU & Controlled Scenarios

India Road Transport - Modeled PM25 Concentrations and Changes in 2030
India Road Transport - Summary of Emissions and Health Impacts

The health impacts of air pollution from the transport sector are not insignificant – and the nature of the issue is that those areas with the most population density are most affected. The health impact analysis estimates up to 49,500 deaths in 2010 and 158,500 in 2030 due to road transport in India.

The only way we can have a real impact on air pollution, GHG emissions, and health impacts from the transport sector is by addressing the issue on multiple fronts. Policy measures implemented in isolation, without a multi-pronged approach will not work. For example, setting fuel efficiency standards and enforcing them is important, but will work only if, among other conditions, roads are also maintained, traffic bottlenecks are eased through traffic management, vehicles maintenance is promoted, and the fuel used is unadulterated. Unless behavioral change gets people to use more public and non-motorized transport, emissions will continue to be a big issue. This will require a concerted and coordinated effort between multiple stakeholders like individuals, industry, and the government. The government needs to provide resources towards public transport to implement policies that fall outside the purview of transport (for instance urban zoning) and the industries can provide incentives to employees to spur the use of public transport.

Unless air pollution is addressed on multiple fronts in conjunction with one another, it will continue to be a significant issue for health impacts on population and GHG emissions for climate policy.

The emissions analysis was extended to individual States (download pdf) and select Cities (download pdf).

India Road Transport - 2010 Emissions for Delhi
India Road Transport - 2010 Emissions for Gujarat
India Road Transport - 2010 Emissions for Tamilnadu
India Road Transport - 2010 Emissions for Kolkata

Please send an email for the full report.




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An Op-Ed on air pollution in Indian cities in the Hindu

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