The Delhi government will need at least a month to prepare before the odd-even vehicle rationing scheme can be introduced under a Supreme Court directive to curb pollution in the capital, officials said on Saturday.
The top court on Friday said the scheme can be implemented if pollution levels rise beyond a limit for two consecutive days, clearing potential hurdles for the government in re-introducing the radical plan that allows vehicles to ply on alternate days based on the last digit of their registration numbers.
“There will be chaos on (the) streets if we do not plan it well. As we don’t have enough number of buses, we have to hire buses to improve public transport as people will leave cars,” an official told HT.
“Hiring buses will need a month… and similarly, we also hire civil defence volunteers to manage traffic on roads. Doing all this immediately after high pollution for two consecutive days is almost impossible as public also need to be informed in advance.”
The Arvind Kejriwal government had introduced the scheme twice though experts are divided over its efficacy, besides the hardships it causes to a city of 16 million people.
Since Diwali in October-end, Delhi has seen one of the worst pollution spikes in recent years with the level of deadly PM 2.5 and PM 10 – fine particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs – rising several times beyond the safe limit.
The SC said the odd-even formula can be automatically enforced and all construction activities stopped if air pollution breaches the PM2.5 emergency level of 300 micrograms per cubic metre for 48 hours at a stretch.
In October 2015, only one day had such severe air quality. In November, it was 16 days, in December 10 days, while in January this year, 14 days had PM2.5 more than 300 microgram per cubic metre.
“This means the department needs to be ready from the start of October till February. This is possible when we have adequate buses and are ready to provide the last-mile connectivity to people who are leaving cars. In the beginning there is bound to be inconvenience as the odd-even rule will be flexible,” the official said.
Sources indicated the scheme can be introduced during the winter break of schools as was done in January this year.
Delhi reeled under a thick cover of smog and haze for at least seven days after Diwali, sparking health concerns among the citizens. Faced with criticism, the city government announced a raft of measures, including closing down of schools.
Sources said ministers and officials will meet next week to discuss how to proceed on the matter.