The Delhi Government, on Saturday, has sanctioned to desist the ‘odd-even’ car rationing scheme in light of the NGT poser regarding the rationale behind the decision. The policy was earlier announced for November 13 to 17 with the intent of depurating the smog-filled air in the city. A crisis situation emerged when the levels of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 and PM 10 entered the severe category. The government declared that schools must be shut down and the people were suggested to wear N95 masks as protection against toxic Delhi smog.

While stubble burning in neighbouring states and fire-crackers have been traced as the primary contributor to the dangerous levels of air pollution in the city, yet they are not the only contributor to the distress of Delhiites. Despite several warnings of worsening air quality before winter, the municipalities turned a blind eye to pollution caused by open burning of waste, and improper disposal of construction and demolition waste. This year, the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) and the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) did not issue a single fine for open burning of waste. The North Delhi Municipal Corporation, meanwhile, fined only 10 people.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) pulled up the Delhi government for failing to act for the entire year until the air quality deteriorated to the extreme levels. “You tell us what is the purpose of implementing Odd-Even again? It seems you just want to reduce vehicles from roads” the court said noting the long list of exceptions. The Central Pollution Control Board has told the Green Court that two-wheelers cause more pollution compared to four-wheelers. Questioning the end result of banning cars when millions of two-wheelers are left unregulated. The court said, “If you are removing 500 cars from roads and allowing 1,000 two-wheelers, what purpose will it serve?” The court further remarked that the exemption from the Odd-Even scheme will be granted only to the CNG vehicle and emergency services such as ambulance and fire service while, earlier, this exemption pertained to women, two-wheelers and VVIPs.
Responsively, the Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot stated that ‘the Delhi Government could not compromise on the safety of women.’ He also accepted the fact that Delhi Government did not have enough public transport alternatives to accommodate over 60 lakh two-wheeler riders.’ Though the scheme has been called off, for now, the government may appeal for a review in the Green Court on Monday, to allow the car rationing policy with the previously practised exemptions.

Recently, the Delhi government’s had also decided to allow free travel for commuters in all DTC and cluster buses between November 13 and November 17, when the odd-even scheme was proposed to be implemented. This was done in order to encourage the use of public transport. It is unclear, now, whether such a decision will be implemented even after the suspension of the odd-even policy.

Experts, however, said there was a need for a long-term plan to reduce emissions. The Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) has issued a ‘Comprehensive Action Plan for Air Pollution Control in Delhi & NCR’ that enlists a combination of short, medium and long-term action for each source of pollution and indicates agencies responsible for implementation. A member of the EPCA and the director-general of the Centre for Science and Environment, Sunita Narain, said if the long-term measures already identified and suggested by the EPCA are not implemented, “air quality cannot improve”.

Image Credits: Hindustan Times

Varoon Tuteja

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