Today the Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal announced that odd-even scheme for vehicles will come in Delhi after Diwali, as a measure to curb pollution. From November 4 to December 15, odd and even-numbered vehicles will be ply on Delhi roads only alternate days. Kejriwal announced that the scheme will be implemented only if the pollution level crosses the danger mark, otherwise, it will not be enforced.
Air pollution is a big problem in Delhi, especially during the dry season in the November-April period. Both the central and state governments have been implementing various measures to curb air pollution in the area. The Odd-Even scheme was first implemented in January 2016, and repeated in April 2016. Only private cars driven by men were subject to this rule. Private vehicles driven by women, and two-wheelers were exempted from the rule. Commercial vehicles bearing yellow number plates didn’t come under this rule.
Delhi government wanted to implement the Odd-Even rule in November 2017, but it was cancelled at the last moment after the National Green Tribunal passed on order saying that women drivers and two-wheelers would not be exempted from the rule. The Supreme Court had stayed the order late, but the rule was not enforced as the air pollution didn’t go below the dangerous mark that year.
When the rule was implemented in 2016, the rule managed to reduce the traffic congestion in Delhi by a great extent, allowing the vehicles on the road to enjoy a much better drive on relatively free roads. But it didn’t achieve its main objective, reduction in air pollution levels.
In fact, for the period January 1 to 15 in 2016, when it was implemented for the first time, the level of several pollutants had gone up compared the previous period. Studies had found that concentration of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 and black carbon had gone up during the period when Odd-Even was in force. After the scheme had ended, the level of PM2.5 had gone up even further, but black carbon level had come down marginally.
A later study published in Current Science had confirmed that air pollution had increased during the periods when half the private vehicles were kept off roads in Delhi. The study had found that the level toxins emitted by vehicles had gone up in the air sample collected by them.
The study had concluded that the exemptions allowed in the road meant that the rule was ineffective. Although private vehicles didn’t ply on roads based on their numbers, the number of exempted vehicles had actually gone up during the restricted period, from 8 am to 8 pm. Delhi government had actually introduced more buses for public convenience, and more two-wheelers, autos and taxis on the roads. Daily average number of vehicles on Delhi roads increased by 10% during the odd-even period. Many people also evaded the rule by driving their before 8 AM and after 8PM on the days their cars were banned.
Central Pollution Control Board had also said that Odd-Even had no impact on pollution. In a report submitted to the NGT, the board had said that air quality in Delhi during the odd-even implementation period in April 2016 was found to have deteriorated. During the second phase of the rule in April, the air pollution had gone up by 23%.
Air pollution is caused by several factors, but for a long time, only few of them have been targeted by governments and activists. In recent years, vehicles and Diwali crackers were the main target. But just like Odd-Even didn’t control pollution, banning of Diwali crackers last year in Delhi was also didn’t yield any result. Only recently the authorities have woken up to other major pollutants, like stubble burning and road dust.
Although this year women-driven cars and two-wheelers are not exempted, it will not apply on commercial vehicles. And as half the two-wheelers will also go off the roads, the demand for public transport will go up even more compared to last time. Therefore, the success of the scheme remains a question this year also.