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Delhi air pollution: Not enough buses, AAP govt’s odd-even plan crashes before start

Delhi government on Saturday backtracked on rolling out the drive as it felt including two-wheeler in the scheme would lead to chaos on roads.

delhi Updated: Nov 12, 2017 13:51 IST
Sweta Goswami
Sweta Goswami
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi Air pollution,Delhi air pollution crisis,Delhi smog
A battery run tricylce rickshaw passes by the Red Fort amid heavy smog in Delhi. Large swathes of India's northern states remained under dense smog that has forced residents to stay indoors.(AFP)

Transport minister Kailash Gahlot’s acknowledgement on Saturday that the existing bus system would not be able cope with the extra 3.3 million passenger load of two wheeler riders should come as a wake-up call for the government, experts say.

Despite the National Green Tribunal giving its nod to the odd-even scheme, Delhi government on Saturday backtracked on rolling out the drive as it felt including two-wheeler in the scheme would lead to chaos on roads.

The conditional approval of the green court caught the Kejriwal government off guard, compelling the CM to call an emergency meeting to decide if going ahead with the scheme with no exemptions was possible. Sources said, in the meeting, Kejriwal was informed that conducting the drive as per the new directive would be “impossible” as even the 500 buses promised by the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) under the Paryavaran Bus Seva had not arrived till Saturday.

“The same issue had come up in the previous two odd-even drives held last year. The government still has learnt no lesson. The Delhi government has not been able to bring buses merely due to administrative issues. At the same time, thousands of crores are spent on metro projects. A standard floor bus costs Rs 45 lakh, whereas, a kilometre of Metro line costs Rs 450 crore,” said Ravindra Kumar, principal scientist, Central Road Research Institute.

Delhi’s bus fleet currently stands at 5,425 against the requirement of 11,000, which is mandated by the Delhi High Court. Both the DTC and cluster buses need to have a fleet of 5,500 buses each. While at least 769 buses have been added to the cluster or orange bus fleet in the last four years, not a single one has been introduced by the DTC since the Commonwealth Games in 2010.

Odd-even no more
The Delhi government on Saturday called off the odd-even scheme, which was to be implemented from Monday
What the green court said
  • There shall be no exemption to any person, officer and individual and two wheelers from the ambit ans scope of odd and even scheme
  • Only CNG vehicles and those used for emergency services will be exempted
Why did the govt backtrack?
  • Including two-wheelers would mean additional burden of 30 lakh passengers on buses
  • Daily ridership of buses is declining due to shortage of buses – from 35 lakh in 2015-16 to 28 lakh now
  • Public transport not safe for women
  • Enforcing the drive would have been difficult for 5,600 traffic police men. Delhi has 1 crore vehicles

The cabinet in September this year had approved the purchase of 2,000 buses. While the transport minister had promised these buses would be pressed into service by March next year, it is likely to be delayed as preparation of the tender would take two months, officials said. After the tender, another six months at least would be needed for the first batch of buses to be rolled out.

If this trend continues, then DTC will cease to exist by 2025. The corporation’s own report suggests that 99% buses of its existing fleet will have to be taken off roads in a span of over five years. This is because its entire fleet is ageing as the operational life of a bus is 12 years or 7.5 lakh kilometres, whichever is later.

As a result, the daily average bus ridership of the corporation has also declined from 43.47 lakh in 2013-14 to 28 lakh now.

“We are in this situation despite buses being the cheapest form of public transport in terms of investment. It is time that the government conducts an audit to find what exactly is the problem,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director at Centre for Science and Environment.

Maintenance is another issue on which even the National Green Tribunal (NGT) flayed the DTC on Saturday. “Your buses create so much noise on the road. They are a great nuisance. Most parts of your buses are either hanging in air or broken. Why don’t you take proper steps for their maintenance? Either your buses run empty or they are overloaded,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar observed.

First Published: Nov 12, 2017 00:38 IST