Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday said the odd-even formula had brought down pollution levels and expressed his surprise over media reports to the contrary.
“How is it possible that 30-40% cars are off the road and some newspaper reports say pollution is up! What else to do! I am happy that an expert has said that we are going in the right direction,” Kejriwal said.
The chief minister was speaking in a session at the International Conclave on the Right to Clean Air organised by Centre for Science and Environment.
“Even petrol pump owners are saying that they will go on strike as their sales have come down,” he said.
The CM said that there are several studies on the impact of the first phase of odd-even but “even at the worst people are admitting that the reduction of pollution was around 15 per cent and it is worth it”.
“And people strongly demanded that we bring it back, and its reason was not pollution but congestion. Congestion had come down considerably where people could reach places within 30-40 minutes. People could drive in peace,” he said.
CSE chief Sunita Narain, however, pointed out that the odd-even scheme could not be seen as a long-term measure to curb pollution. “It is an emergency measure and should be treated as such. Pollution might not have but the rate of increase of pollution has come down,” Narain said. She said the poor air quality was due to wind speed.
“Wind is a vital factor in deciding pollution levels. Even during the last odd-even in January, pollution levels were high as there was no wind, no rain and high moisture,” she said.
Kejriwal talked about other measures that his government will take to curb pollution in Delhi.
Exemption to two-wheelers
The chief minister said including two-wheelers in the odd-even scheme will result in chaos and complete anarchy. “If two-wheelers are included, half of 40 lakh people who ply in Delhi every day, will have to take Metro and buses. Right now, we don’t have that capacity,” he said.
Kejriwal rejected the notion that ‘vote-bank politics’ was behind the exemption to two-wheeler riders. “Two-wheelers will be covered by the odd-even scheme only after a sound public transport system is put in place, which will take at least two years,” he said.
Other measures apart from odd even
Kejriwal listed banned waste burning, building green patches on dusty roads and started vacuum cleaning of roads as other measures by his government to check pollution. “We are also cracking the whip on PUC (pollution under control) centres which issue fake certificates.”
Premium AC bus service
The government will announce in two or three days a premium air-conditioned bus service. In such buses, no standing passengers will be allowed. “It is difficult for people who drive cars to switch to public transport. The bus aggregator policy is targeted to bring such people to use public transport. The government will engage private players for the new service,” Kejriwal said.
New buses but no space
The CM said the government will buy 3,000-4,000 buses in the coming year but it has no space to park them. He said the government needs at least 500 acres of land to park 10,000 buses. “But the DDA is demanding R4 crore per acre, which is too expensive. We have asked the DDA to lease out land at R1 per acre,” he said.
New roads, elevated corridors
The CM said that 10 major roads are being redesigned. “Elevated north-south and east-west corridors will be built for undisturbed movement of buses. There will be dedicated bus lanes so that the buses also reach their destination on time like the Metro. Cars can also run on these lanes after paying toll tax,” Kejriwal said.
He asserted that his government had the will to go ahead with tough measures for public welfare. “Two things are required. One is political will and the other is vision towards a solution. We have the first. You give us the hardest of tasks, we will do it. All of us need to have some patience,” he said.