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Odd-even scheme will do little good without minimizing exemptions: Experts

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 13-09-2019 17:34 IST | Created: 13-09-2019 17:34 IST
Odd-even scheme will do little good without minimizing exemptions: Experts

Without ensuring public participation and minimizing exemptions for commercial vehicles and certain group of travellers, the odd-even scheme — to be rolled out from November 4 in Delhi — will do little to improve the air quality of the National Capital Region, environmentalists say. A study by IIT-Delhi researchers has found that the rationing of vehicles on Delhi's roads reduced air pollution by only 2-3 per cent when the scheme was introduced for the first time in January 2016.

"We stand by our study," said Dinesh Mohan, professor emeritus at IIT-Delhi, who led the study. "Since there was no improvement in air quality and the impact on congestion was so little, there is no reason to reintroduce the scheme except garnering international publicity." Anumita Roy Chowdhury, of the advocacy group Centre For Science and Environment, however, said vehicles cannot be ignored in the fight against air pollution. But, she added, enforcement will decide effectiveness of any preemptive action by authorities.

Data from IITM-Pune and the Centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) show that the contribution of vehicles to pollution in Delhi has increased by 40 per cent between 2010 and 2018, she said. "We cannot ignore vehicles anymore. Emergency actions are targeting all other sources of pollution. This (odd-even) is the only emergency measure for vehicles," she said.

"Whatever action you take, enforcement is what is going to decide its effectiveness. Also, our advice to the government would be to minimize exemptions," Chowdhury said. When the scheme was implemented last time, the government had exempted women drivers, two-wheelers, emergency vehicles; vehicles of chief ministers, Union ministers, political and legal dignitaries from it.

Citing another study, the CSE expert said vehicular pollution is 40 per cent of the total air pollution in Delhi. "Still, you (authorities) are taking action on everyone else except vehicles." During the last two years, when air quality deteriorated alarmingly, authorities stopped entry of trucks in Delhi, construction work and imposed penalty on burning of garbage and temporary shut down of industrial units and power plants.

Dipankar Saha, a former air lab chief at the Central Pollution Control Board, said exemptions given to commercial vehicles under the scheme are detrimental. "The purpose of the scheme gets defeated if you allow all commercial vehicles, Ola and Uber. You're just reducing the number of private vehicles on roads and adding commercial vehicles," he said.

"Of course, the road-rationing scheme has helped brought down pollution levels. If you reduce the number of vehicles on roads, there will be more space available for others to drive. This means better speed, better utilisation of fuel and less emissions," he said. The period the government has selected — from November 4 to 15 — is apt. The meteorological conditions don't help in reducing pollution during this period, Saha said.

"Delhi experiences bad weather in this period and 'poor-to-severe' air quality. So if the road-rationing scheme is implemented, it will certainly help reduce pollution," he said. Santosh Harish, a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, was part of a team of researchers at The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago and Evidence for Policy Design, that analysed the impact of the Odd-Even scheme implemented in 2016.

Harish said Delhi witnessed 14-16 per cent reduction in PM2.5 levels during the hours the scheme remained in force in January that year. But, he pointed out, there was no reduction in pollution when the scheme was brought back in April that year.

He said this was largely because there was no check on other polluting activities, such as burning of garbage or temporary shutdown of industrial units and power plants. "(However) It is a good emergency measure during winters when pollution levels peak." GVS/GJS ABH




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