Odd-even last weapon against pollution: Delhi’s environment minister Gopal Rai
Delhi’s air quality has consistently remained in the ‘poor’ category since October 7, with the AQI remaining over 200. On Monday, Delhi’s AQI was measured at 244.Updated: Oct 20, 2020, 01:27 IST
Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai on Monday said the government will implement the odd-even road rationing scheme to curb vehicular emissions as the “last weapon” in the fight against air pollution in the national Capital.
“We have implemented the odd-even scheme several times in Delhi and it will be our last weapon. Odd-even is also a way to reduce vehicular pollution but right now we are completely focussing on this (‘red light on, gaadi off’) campaign. If all other programmes don’t work, then the government will think about implementing the odd-even scheme,” Rai said at an event to launch a campaign to urge motorists to turn off engines of their vehicles while waiting at traffic lights.
Delhi’s air quality has consistently remained in the ‘poor’ category since October 7, with the AQI remaining over 200. On Monday, Delhi’s AQI was measured at 244.
Experts also pointed out that since public transport is running with only limited capacity in view of restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the government should step up other measures to ensure that it doesn’t have to resort to enforce odd-even.
Bhure Lal, chairperson, Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) said that on-ground enforcement for controlling pollution sources will have to be augmented this time so that emergency measures such as bringing about the odd-even plan can be avoided.
“This is surely a different kind of situation that we will be facing this time. The aim should be that the enforcement is so strict this year that the air quality does not slip into the emergency levels,” Lal said.
Delhi has so far implemented the odd-even scheme thrice in sweeping measures to reduce the city’s record-high air pollution by limiting the number of cars on streets.
After being implemented twice in 2016, the scheme was added to the Supreme Court approved Graded Response Action Plan (Grap) as a measure to be implemented when Delhi’s air quality reached the ‘emergency’ category—PM 2.5 (ultrafine particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 micrometres) are above 300ug/m3 or PM 10 (particulate matter with diameter less than 10 micrometres) levels remain 500ug/m3 continuously for 48 hours.
Last year, the scheme was enforced between November 4 and November 15.
However, researchers and environment experts have been divided on the odd-even scheme’s impact on the pollution levels in the national capital.
When the policy was first implemented between January 1 and 15, 2016, a study by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur, Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, The Energy Research Institute and National Physical Laboratory in Delhi, and Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune, found that the PM 2.5 levels fell by 4%-6%.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) also carried out a study of the two phases in 2016 and concluded that a single factor could not result in substantial reductions in pollution and that an “integrated approach” was needed.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment, said with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic the government will have to look at newer strategies to fight pollution. “You cannot remove half of a city’s vehicles without giving them an alternative public transport option. The Delhi government had plans for bringing in new buses, but a lot of things have been delayed because of the pandemic. The government will have to look for newer ways to keep the pollution levels down in these circumstances,” she said.
All private petrol, diesel, compressed natural gas (CNG) and hybrid cars, including those entering the city from other states, are required to be a part of the road rationing drive. Only CNG-fuelled commercial vehicles such as auto-rickshaws, taxis, trucks, buses, tempos and gramin sewas are allowed to ply during the arrangement.
Two-wheelers, commercial vehicles, cars driven by women or carrying only women passengers, specially-abled people or school children are exempted from the drive.