… penalty ranges from Nu 750 to Nu 2,500 

Rinzin Wangchuk

The Road Safety and Transport Authority’s (RSTA) office in Thimphu did not renew motor vehicle registration and roadworthiness certificates for more than 15 vehicle owners in the past two days.

They did not have a pollution under control certificate (PUC), which is commonly known as an emission test certificate.

RSTA officials said that the emission test certificate is the pre-requisite for the roadworthiness certificate renewal as per the Road Safety and Transport Regulations (RSTR) 2021.

The regulations on vehicle emission in the country have been there since 1999 but the authority was unable to implement them strictly because some regions did not have emission testing centres. “The Covid-19 pandemic also hampered the implementation of the regulations as well as outsourcing of emission test,” a senior transport officer said.

The RSTA floated a tender through the electronic government procurement system (eGP) in January 2021. However, the processing of the tender took some time due to Covid-19.

The contracts were awarded to two testing firms, SPD Enterprise and Yangki Automobile, for a period of three years from January 2022 and five emission testing centres were set up in four regions.

After they began operations, the RSTA started implementing the regulations strictly from July this year, especially under the Thimphu region. RSTA officials said that the contracts for emission testing services were awarded based on the emission test fees quoted by the bidders.

Today, there are five emission testing centres in Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Mongar. Both firms conduct mobile emission testing on a quarterly basis where there are no emission centres set up in Paro, Haa, Punakha, Wangdue, Lhuentse, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, and other dzongkhags.

All commercial vehicles will have to undergo a test of emission once every six months and other categories of vehicles once every year.

Why do an  emission test?

If a motor vehicle fails to undergo an emission test, the owner is liable to pay the penalty of Nu 1,500 for 30 units. One unit is Nu 50.

As per the regulations, the authorised person or traffic police may require a motor vehicle to undergo an emission test if a vehicle is emitting excessive smoke while driving on a road, and should provide instructions for rectification. Failure to rectify the emission levels within 30 days will result in a penalty of 30 units.

And if the vehicle is emitting excessive exhaust smoke while being driven on a highway, the owner is liable to pay a penalty of Nu 1,000 (20 units).

The authority or traffic police will serve a notice prohibiting the use of a motor vehicle on the road if the emission test carried out shows an unacceptable level of emission from its exhaust.

The owner of a motor vehicle who is issued a notice cannot use or allow the vehicle to be used on the road until the defects are remedied and the level of emission is at an acceptable level. Non-compliance of instructions to rectify the emission level will result in a penalty of 30 units for the first offence, 50 units for the second offence, and grounding of the vehicle until the emission issue is rectified.

A person driving a motor vehicle shall obtain a PUC from an emission testing firm or the authority, as documentary proof of a vehicle being tested for vehicular emission. The penalty for failure to produce an emission compliance certificate is 15 units.

However, power tillers, equipment, antique vehicles preserved for showcase and not to ply on the roads, and all new vehicles for the initial period of three years counting from the date of initial registration are exempted from the requirement to undergo vehicular emission test.

Vehicle  emission standard

From January 2022, Bhutan follows the Bharat Stage or Euro 6 emission standard as prescribed by National Environment Commission, according to RSTA officials.

The standard for diesel vehicles registered before January 2005 is 75 percent HSU and for vehicles registered after January 2005 is 70 percent HSU. For petrol vehicles registered before January 2005 is 4.5 percent Co and 4 percent Co for vehicles registered after January 2005.

The fee for the vehicular emission test for all categories of motor vehicles is as per the contractual agreement signed between the authority and two authorised firms.

Currently, both SPD Enterprise and Yangki emission testing centres collect Nu 49 for two-wheelers, Nu 149 for light vehicles, taxis and buses, and Nu 249 each for medium and heavy vehicles as fees for testing charges.

Risk of GHG emission 

The RSTR 2021 provides a framework for the registration and renewal of motor vehicles, licensing of drivers, emission testing, vehicle roadworthiness, vehicle ownership transfer, and/or any other services associated or incidental to the motor vehicle and its drivers.

The regulations on vehicle emissions are expected to preserve and promote a clean and healthy environment, reduce excessive auto emission levels and establish uniform emission standards throughout the country.

An Asian Development Bank’s policy released in 2019 stated that Bhutan is the only carbon-neutral country, but greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the transport sector could triple by 2030, if actions are not taken.

The country’s second national communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2011 reported that GHG emissions from the transport sector accounted for about 20 percent of the country’s total emissions in 2000. By the end of 2012, this increased to about 30 percent.

Given the average vehicle ownership growth rate of 15 percent a year, the report stated that GHG emissions from the transport sector are expected to grow further.

Based on current trends of vehicle acquisition and fuel import standards, and without any policy interventions, vehicle inventory in Bhutan is projected to increase to 180,000 by 2030. With this, emissions from the domestic transport sector may reach 660,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2030.

The total number of motor vehicles registered with the RSTA as of June 30, 2022 is 122,865 of which 80,666 are light vehicles making up 66 percent of the total number of vehicles and the least is electric vehicles with just 361 or 0.3 percent.

As per the latest record, the country’s total number of motor vehicles stands at 125,052 as of October 31, which increased by 2,187 within four months.

A total of 9,331 new vehicles were registered by the authority in 2021-2022, which was a big increase from the total new registration of 5,616 vehicles in 2020-21.