The second phase of the odd-even road rationing scheme to reduce the Capital’s notorious air pollution and traffic snarls will begin for a fortnight from April 15, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Thursday.
Women driving alone or with young children, several categories of VIPs and two-wheelers will be exempted.
“We urge them (VIPs) to follow the example set by the chief justice during the first phase of the scheme,” Kejriwal said.
This means there will be no changes in the exemption list that was in place when the formula designed to allow vehicles with registration plates ending with odd or even numbers to run on alternate days was tried out from January 1 to 15. But discussions on who should be spared the curbs are still on.
The date was chosen to ensure students writing their school boards were not affected. The exams will end on April 12.
The CM said two-wheelers couldn’t be brought within the purview of the scheme because of the city’s inadequate public transport system. “Public transport needs to be improved. By December we will have 3,000 new buses. We are planning an elevated BRT (bus rapid transport) corridor with two levels, one for cars and another for buses. Until all these happen, odd-even can’t be permanent,” he said.
The announcement came on the day the Aam Aadmi Party government made public results of opinion from people which is “overwhelmingly” in favour of re-introduction of the scheme.
Overall 81% of respondents want odd-even back and more than 60% said the formula should be made permanent, the CM said. The government got 4.1 lakh responses from the public through multiple channels.
Kejriwal said implementing the formula for a fortnight every month could be explored because it would mean six days of inconvenience for an individual but also relief for 15 days.
“The number of buses will be increased. Traffic enforcement teams will be allowed to penalise people,” he said, announcing that 500 retired defence personnel will be hired as traffic enforcement inspectors.
Offenders may have to shell out more than the Rs 2,000 fine imposed during the trial run.
The government requisitioned school buses to replenish the public transport system in January. But that will not be the case in April. Instead, 5,500 private buses will be hired.
The government was forced to introduce the radical scheme as pollution levels in the city of 25 million consistently shot past the WHO safety standard this winter with thick smog hanging low over the sky.
Besides exhaust from vehicles and smoke from industries, smog from crop residue burnt in neighbouring states added to pollution levels, prompting the national green tribunal (NGT) to ban such activities in five states in north India.
The AAP government announced other measures, such as shutting down diesel-fired power plants and introducing vacuum cleaning of roads.
The judiciary also stepped into the war against pollution with the Supreme Court banning registration of diesel vehicles above 2000cc till March 31.
However, the Central Pollution Control Board said the scheme could have a visible impact on air quality if similar experiments were carried out in the entire national capital region.
The pollution watchdog reached this conclusion after analysing Delhi’s air pollution for a month, including the 15 days from January 1 when the trial run was on.
But thousands of people, who carpooled, took crowded buses and the Metro, reported less time-consuming commutes and less-clogged roads during the trials.
Critics of the scheme said the restrictions were not radical enough as motorcyclists and women driving alone are allowed, besides a long list of exemptions such as VIPs. Campaigners said motorbikes were responsible for up to 31% of pollution from vehicles.