Odd-even plan back on road for Delhi by Diwali

INDIA-POLLUTION
India's presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan is seen shrouded in smog in New Delhi. File Photo: Reuters
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New Delhi: As winter sets in, India's capital city is once again considering the odd-even road rationing scheme to bring its toxic pollution levels under control.

The odd-even scheme will come into effect in Delhi from November 4-15, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Friday among a slew of other measures to combat high-level of air pollution caused due to stubble burning in neighbouring states during winters.

According to the annual air quality data recorded by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the three-year average of PM 2.5 (particulate matters with less than 2.5 microns width) levels during 2016-2018 was 25 per cent lower than the 2011-2014 baseline (three-year average) the pollution levels. However, according to the Centre for Science and Environment a further reduction of 65 per cent from the current baseline is required to meet the clean air standards for PM 2.5.

Kejriwal announced the odd-even scheme as part of the seven-point 'Parali Pradushan' action plan that also includes mass distribution of anti-pollution masks, mechanised sweeping and water sprinkling on the roads, tree plantation, and special plans for 12 pollution hotspots in the city.

During the 12-day scheme, vehicles will ply alternately on odd and even dates as per their registration numbers. In the previous two experiments in January and April in 2016, a fine of Rs 2,000 was imposed on the violators of the rule.

Kejriwal said the details of the scheme will be shared with people in coming days.

In the past, two-wheelers and female commuters were exempted from the rule.

According to the graded response action plan (GRAP) devised by the Central Pollution Control Board, the odd-even scheme for private vehicles is implemented when the pollution level at 'severe plus' category persists for 48 hours or more.

The air pollution level in Delhi remains low in 11 months of a year but picks up in November due to stubble (parali) burning in the neighbouring states. Dense cloud of smoke covers Delhi, which becomes a gas chamber, the chief minister said.

"The Centre, and governments in Punjab and Haryana are making their efforts to prevent crop burning and the Delhi government will extend all possible help to them," he said.

Asserting the efficacy of the odd-even scheme, Kejriwal said studies have shown that it could reduce air pollution by 10-13 per cent. The scheme was criticised by some sections including experts on the ground that effect on air quality was limited.

"We will utilise our experiences of implementation of odd-even schemes twice in the past in Delhi," he said when asked about overcharging by cab aggregators after the scheme is implemented.

The chief minister said that under the long-term plans to improve air quality in the city to "good" category, the government will soon announce its bus aggregator and e-vehicle policy.

Kejriwal said over 1,200 suggestions were received from the people regarding ways to combat air pollution in Delhi during winters. He also received feedback of environmental experts and resident welfare associations based on which the action plan was prepared.

"The Delhi government will make large-scale procurement of around 50-60 lakh 'best quality' N-95 anti-pollution masks which will be distributed among the people in October month before the spike in air pollution in next month due to parali burning," he said.

The Delhi government will hold a mega laser show on the eve of Diwali and appeal to the people to follow the ban on bursting of crackers on the festival.

"We appeal to the people to avoid bursting crackers on Diwali. The government will host a laser show on the eve of Diwali so that all people in the city could celebrate the festival. We hope people will not burst crackers after this."

Sprinkling of water and mechanised sweeping of roads will be undertaken to curb dust pollution. Twelve major pollution hotspots will be dealt with special plans and measures, he said.

Burning of waste and garbage will be checked through deploying two 'environmental marshals' in each ward. Besides, the government will engage RWAs and people to prevent the practice.

Also, a "Delhi Tree Challenge' campaign will be started by the government in which saplings will be home-delivered to people, he said.

A war room will be set up to deal with complaints on air pollution. Awareness will be created among schoolchildren and they will be roped in to motivate their parents to help in efforts to curb pollution, the chief minister said.

(With inputs from PTI.)

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