A four-member committee set up by the National Green Tribunal has penalised German car manufacturer Volkswagen Rs 171.34 crore for contributing to air pollution in Delhi through excess nitrogen oxide emissions, PTI reported.

Volkswagen is accused of flouting environmental norms by using a cheat device in its diesel cars that lowered vehicle emissions only during tests.

The committee, in its report, said Volkswagen cars released an estimated 48.678 tonnes of nitrogen oxide in 2016 in the city. Nitrogen oxide is a pollutant that is known to cause heart and lung diseases.

“Estimated cost of heath damage due to additional NOx [nitrogen oxide] emissions from the Volkswagen group vehicles is approximately Rs 171.34 crore using a metro city i.e. Delhi as a base,” the report said. “Further, the valuation is for Delhi city considering that the value of NOx is 435 tonnes is released in the city.”

The expert committee comprised Automotive Research Association of India Director Rashmi Urdhwareshe, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute chief scientist Dr Nitin Labhsetwar, Ministry of Heavy Industries Director Ramakant Singh, and Central Pollution Control Board Member Secretary Prashant Gargava.

The panel, which was set up in November on the instructions of the green panel, calculated the amount of penalty on the basis of the 3.27 lakh Volkswagen cars in India that had the cheat device.

The report was filed on the orders of National Green Tribunal Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, who last year told Volkswagen to deposit Rs 100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board within a month.

The expert panel told the tribunal that automobiles are a major source of nitrogen oxide emissions and nitrogen dioxide is the most prevalent source form of nitrogen oxide. Prolonged exposure to elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide may cause asthma and respiratory infections.

The matter is set to come up for hearing before the tribunal on Thursday.