Petrol Pump Gas Station India
India's oil refiners face $13bn clean fuels bill. Reuters

Oil refiners in India, the world's fourth-largest oil consumer, will need to invest over $13bn in upgrades to produce cleaner fuels, a government official said, as Asia's third-largest economy seeks to battle air pollution in its cities.

The 800bn rupee ($13.4bn, €9.8bn, £8.1bn) investment encompasses all refineries barring Reliance Industries, owner of the world's biggest oil-refining complex, said Saumitra Chaudhuri, head of a government panel that has drafted new fuel standards.

Chaudhuri, who is also a member of India's top economic planning body, said he hoped that the incoming government will consider the panel's recommendations.

National elections in India have concluded and results are due on 16 May. Exit polls predict that the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance will win.

"We are doing all this for public health now that there is sufficient evidence on the ground to suggest that ambient air pollution has deleterious effects on human health," Chaudhuri told Reuters.

"We are more concerned with the environment and we want people to have better quality of life which also includes better quality of air," Narendra Taneja, a BJP energy policy coordinator told Reuters, adding his party will seek out a "holistic solution."

India Rejects WHO Data

A government agency tasked with monitoring air quality acknowledged last week that pollution in New Delhi is comparable to that of Beijing at certain times of the year.

However, the state-run System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (Safar) rejected World Health Organisation (WHO) data that showed the Indian capital was the worst city for air pollution the world over.

Safar's Gufran Beig told AFP that Delhi's air quality was better than Beijing's during the summer and the monsoon season.

Last week, WH0 released new data on air pollution in 1,600 cities.

13 of the 20 dirtiest cities were in India, according to WHO data. The Indian cities of New Delhi, Patna, Gwalior and Jaipur occupied the top four spots.