The pathway to a cleaner Bangladesh: Understanding engines and emissions

The exponential growth of vehicles over the last decade has forced authorities concerned to set new transport emission standards

Zisan Bin Liaquat

Vehicles emissions and Industrial emission are the biggest pollutant factors in Bangladesh, following water pollution. Vehicles have increased by 135 percent since 2003 in Bangladesh. In 2012, vehicles were the second largest air polluter after brick kilns, according to a study conducted by the Bangladesh Department of Environment (DoE). 

The government set detailed and comprehensive emission standards to improve air quality in Bangladesh for the first time, in 2005. The standards allowed a petrol-run vehicle to emit 4.5 percent carbon monoxide and 1,200 parts per million (ppm) of hydrocarbon.

The exponential growth of vehicles over the last decade has forced Bangladesh’s authorities to set new transport emission standards to curb increasing air pollution. The DoE has revised standards set in 2005 for diesel and petrol run vehicles but transport authorities currently lack the facilities to enforce them.

The Department of Environment (DoE) has devised separate emission standards for vehicles powered by diesel, petrol and compressed natural gas (CNG), partly in line with its 2012 study on air pollution by the transport sector.

To put Bangladesh on a greener growth trajectory, the government 

and policymakers should consider strengthening policies and institutions, 

and enforce environmental standards with a shift to cleaner technologies 

to contain the increasing air, water and soil pollution as well as industrial pollution

New emission standards for diesel-run vehicles are recommended at 60 Hartridge Smoke Units (HSU) for turbocharged vehicles and 50 HSU for those that are not turbocharged, instead of 65 HSU set in the 2005 standard. Hartridge Smoke Units are used to measure the opacity of exhaust gases, especially from diesel engines.

Currently the country has no policy dictating or imposing a benchmark on the imported vehicle engines that meet the HSE standard, unlike neighboring countries which have implemented this almost a decade ago and successfully controlling engine emissions from vehicles.

Although the reduction of pollutants from vehicles run by petrol and diesel will improve air quality in Dhaka and other parts of Bangladesh, we still need a more focused policy on the type of engines that vehicles rely on; to cut down on emission and reduce pollution.

Surprisingly, experts say engine standard and fuel can change the game of ensuring a cleaner Bangladesh.

To put Bangladesh on a greener growth trajectory, the government and policymakers should consider strengthening policies and institutions, and enforce environmental standards with a shift to cleaner technologies to contain the increasing air, water and soil pollution as well as industrial pollution. 

The commercial or transport vehicles that make up a huge part of the emissions from the vehicle currently use BS-I BS-II Euro I Euro II standard engines imported from neighboring countries as well as Europe; that themselves rely on engines with better environmental compliance standards such as the BS-VI Euro VI standard, transitioning only recently from BS III BS IV Euro III Euro IV engine standards.

But transitioning from BS I and Euro I standard to BS VI and Euro VI standard is impractical and infeasible. The transition needs to be linear, following the global trend, aiming for BS IV or Euro IV standards first; rather than disrupting inorganic ecosystems that would follow with the sudden elimination process.

The sulphur content in BS-IV Euro IV fuels is much lower than that of BS-I BS-II or Euro I Euro II fuels. Hence, improved fuel will only lead to lower pollution. Sulphur works as a lubricant for the injectors of diesel engines, so, the low sulphur content might lead to higher wear and tear in the long run. However, the engines can be safely run for lakhs of kilometres without requiring any additional maintenance.

Additionally, petrol-fuelled engines and their emission abatement technologies suggest that there may be

additional benefits for fuel with a sulphur content that is lower than 50 parts per million to be available. There has been much discussion surrounding the appropriate sulphur content of petrol and diesel fuels and its potential contribution in meeting environmental emission targets for nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and carbon dioxide. So importing fuels with a sulphur content of lower than 50 ppm needs to be imported as well.

According to experts, this will ensure major cities around the nation have a reduced vehicle emission rate that has been one of the major pollutants and a threat to the sustainability of the nation. 

It is already apparent that Bangladesh as a founding member of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) since 2012 has been strategically reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) with tools ranging from green technology investment for brick kilns to climate finance funds that help spark the transition to the country’s green future.

Now what is needed is to ensure the formulation of a policy coherent to what experts have pointed outand raise the minimum standard of imported engines and the fuel it uses.

If achieved, it will be nothing short of an unprecedented leap for Bangladesh.

Zisan Bin Liaquat is a freelance writer