Discussion Paper

The Impact of Delhi's CNG Program on Air Quality

Feb 28, 2007 | Urvashi Narain, Alan J. Krupnick


This paper estimates the impact on Delhi’s air quality of a number of policy measures recently implemented in the city to curb air pollution using monthly time-series data from 1990 to 2005. The best known of these measures is the court-mandated conversion of all commercial passenger vehicles—buses, three-wheelers, and taxis—to compressed natural gas (CNG). Broadly, the results point to the success of a number of policies implemented in Delhi but also to a number of areas of growing concern. For example, the results suggest that the conversion of buses from diesel to CNG has helped to reduce PM10, CO, and SO2 concentrations in the city and has not, contrary to conventional wisdom, led to the recent increase in NO2. At the same time, however, the conversion of three-wheelers from petrol to CNG has not had the same benefit, possibly because of poor technology. Another policy measure that appears to have had a positive impact on air quality is the reduction in the sulfur content of diesel and petrol. This has led to a decrease in SO2 levels and, because of conversion of SO2 to sulfates (a fine particle), a decrease in PM10 concentrations. Some of these gains from fuel switching and fuel-quality improvements are, however, being negated by the increase in the proportion of diesel-fueled cars, which is leading to an increase in PM10 and NO2 levels, and by the sheer increase in the number of vehicles.