Low carbon vehicle strategy and a roadmap developed by National Environment Commission (NEC) recommend using e-taxis, urban buses and hybrid vehicles to address the growing vehicle emission in the country.

According to Bhutan State of Environment report 2016, the concentration of particulate matter particles with a diameter of 10 micrometre (PM10) has crossed the World Health Organisation (WHO) and European Union (EU) guideline values in 2015.

Particulate matter (PM) consists of complex mixture of solid and liquid particles of organic and inorganic substances in the air.

PM10 is defined as health-damaging particles that can penetrate and lodge deep inside the lungs. Exposure to high concentrations of PM10 can result in a number of health impacts from coughing and wheezing to asthma attacks and bronchitis to high blood pressure, heart attack, strokes, and premature death.

Air quality measurements describe PM concentrations in terms of micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3).

The report shows that Thimphu has more than 40 μg/m3 of PM10 concentration. The concentration is twice the WHO guideline limit of 20 μg/m3 of PM10. The European Union limit value is 40 μg/m3.

Low carbon vehicle strategy and a roadmap with policy measures to control vehicle emissions were presented in a consultation meeting held on November 30.

Chief Executive Officer of Grutter Consulting, Jurg Grutter, said that the air pollution in Bhutan is not yet critical but is worsening.

He added that vehicles are a major source of air pollution in Bhutan. “With no measures taken, vehicle emissions will triple by 2030. Once polluting vehicles are on the road, it is very costly and difficult to remove them. Early action for a clean vehicle fleet is, therefore, important.”

Road Safety Transport Authority’s annual report 2014 to 2015 show that 62 percent of vehicles in the country are passenger vehicles and 12 percent heavy duty.

An NEC official, Tshewang Dorji, said that commercial vehicles such as taxis, buses and trucks account for 20 percent of the vehicles. “However, about 64 percent of greenhouse gas emission is due to the commercial vehicles.”

Tshewang Dorji said that electric transport system is expensive and needs to work on making it more attractive through subsidisation.

The road map proposes policy measures related to improving fuel standards, vehicle emission standard enforcement and restricting future import of diesel-powered cars and light vehicles of less than 3.5 tons.

Concerns were raised by the participants about euro-II vehicles coming to Bhutan and asked when would India implement euro-VI emission standard for vehicles. Euro-VI vehicles release minimum pollution compared to euro-II vehicles.

Following the consultation meeting and discussion, the proposal will be submitted to NEC for implementation.

The project was supported by Asian Development Bank.

Phurpa Lhamo