The Aam Aadmi Party government on Friday told the Delhi high court that it may extend the odd-even scheme beyond the 15-day trial period, saying it has a “definite positive” effect against air pollution in the capital.
Senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for the Delhi government, submitted before a bench of chief justice G Rohini and justice Jayant Nath a status report on the data collected during January 1-8 on air pollution post implementation of the even-odd scheme.
Salve defended the scheme saying it was a result of the “emergency” situation that has arisen because of high air pollution level in the city. “There is a definite positive effect of the scheme and has to be continued beyond this 15-day trial period,” Salve said.
He submitted a report of Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority which stated that pollution in Delhi this winter is four times beyond the safety standard. “There has not been a single good air quality day this winter,” Salve said.
“Pollution is not going to go away. The odd-even scheme is an emergency measure to arrest peaking of the air pollution level,” Salve said adding that the scheme has succeeded in arresting the upward trend in air pollution.
The AAP government also told the high court that it was in the process of buying more buses to augment the fleet of the existing public transport system.
At the outset, the bench asked AAP government whether data collected till now post the implementation of even-odd scheme “was enough” to gauge the effectiveness of the policy. “Why is it necessary to have it for 15-day... Is there any better method which can be brought in,” the bench asked as it reserved the verdict on a bunch of petitions challenging the scheme for January 11.
Delhi transport minister Gopal Rai and AAP member Ashish Khetan and environmentalist Sunita Narain were also present in court during the hearing.
For 15 days from January 1, private cars are being allowed on the city’s roads every other day to try to reduce pollutant levels, which regularly hit 10 times the World Health Organization’s safe limits.
Cars with odd-numbered licence plates have been directed to ply on odd-numbered dates, and those with even-numbered plates on the other days.
The government on Thursday had said that the road-rationing plan was working and would not be cut short as pollution levels in the city had dropped considerably. A week into the 15-day trial run, the city government, battling criticism that the odd-even formula for private cars had failed to clean city’s dirty air, had said the concentration of finest particles, known as particulate matter 2.5 (PM 2.5), had fallen significantly.
Sixty micrograms per cubic metre is considered the maximum safe level while the World Health Organization recommends 25 micrograms. These tiny particles released by factories and motor vehicles can cause respiratory distress and have also been linked to cancer and heart disease.