Decision on odd-even plan in Delhi after Supreme Court hearing on Fri: Rai
The Delhi government will file an affidavit in the Supreme Court ahead of the Friday hearing in response to its directions on air pollution
A decision on the odd-even road rationing scheme proposed to be implemented from Monday, November 13, will be taken on Friday after the Supreme Court’s hearing on the measures taken for air pollution in the national Capital, Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai said on Wednesday.
At its hearing on Tuesday, the Supreme Court termed the odd-even scheme as “optics” and appeared to question its efficacy and success in the past in reducing the dangerously high pollution levels. In the written order that followed the hearing, the bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia asked the Delhi government to revert on Friday.
“It is thus suggested that though the Delhi Government is seeking to impose restrictions on the basis of “Odd-Even”, she (amicus curiae Aparajita Singh) submits that this is really an unscientific method. If on the basis of colour-coded stickers, vehicles which have orange stickers (run on diesel) can be banned instead. On this aspect also, the state government will report back to us,” the bench said on Tuesday.
Rai said the transport department has been told to present the two major studies conducted on the odd-even schemes. “Two studies on the impact of the odd-even scheme have been conducted in the past; one by Harvard University and the other by Delhi Technological University (DTU). The reports will be submitted to the Supreme Court and as per the directions of the SC, a final decision will be taken on Friday,” he said.
According to the government’s odd-even policy, private vehicles with registration plates ending in odd numbers will be allowed on the streets on odd-numbered dates, while even-numbered vehicles can ply on even dates.
The plan, first implemented in Delhi in 2016 and repeated in 2017 and 2019, has been a matter of debate with no comprehensive study backing the step in its efficacy to curb vehicular pollution. The odd-even scheme is part of the restrictions mandated under Grap 4 when air quality index reaches severe+ levels (AQI value of 450+).
A study by DTU on the 2016 implementation of the scheme found that the concentration of PM2.5 and PM10 levels dropped, but only partially. According to the study, an average reduction of 5.73% in PM2.5 levels and 4.70% in PM10 levels was seen across three roads assessed by the authors. As of October this year, nearly 2.5 million cars ply on Delhi roads every day.
In 2019, the government cited the study by the University of Chicago and Harvard University to explain its decision to implement the odd-even scheme, saying it found that Delhi’s air pollution reduced by around 14%-16% during the first odd-even experiment in January 2016.
Experts and environmentalists have underlined a gamut of concerns with the programme. Several have called it short-sighted and unscientific, while others have highlighted the long list of exemptions to the rule, especially those for taxis and two-wheelers.
“The effectiveness of this measure will depend on the minimal exemptions. This will be inconvenient for personal car users just as the way other emergency measures impact the other target groups. But such aggressive action has to catalyse longer term reforms in public transport services and fleet electrification to avoid such disruptive action in the coming winters,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy) at Centre for Science and Environment.