Delhi is the most polluted city in the World, declared WHO in May 2014. Central Pollution Control Board of India rejected the study, claiming WHO has over estimated the levels of pollutants in the city. Rather than rejecting such reports and debating whether Delhi’s air is better than Beijing, it would have made sense to work on schemes to combat the pollution. Did we have to wait for the situation to become worse? The drastic rise in the pollution levels should have been enough to ring the warning alarms.
In 2012, there were 7 million deaths in the world due to air pollution, revealed WHO. Air pollution has become the most dreadful environmental health risk. It is the fifth leading cause of death in India. The pollutants, PM2.5 and PM 10 are way above the admissible levels in Delhi. These pollutants cause respiratory diseases, cardiac problems, ENT issues and lung cancer. As per the study conducted by Heal Foundation in 2015, 41% of Delhi school students (sample of around 735 students) failed the lung capacity test.
Why am I attempting to bring these facts to your notice? Well, it is better Late than Never. For all those who are against the Odd-Even Rule in Delhi, please understand the gravity of situation. If Delhi’s government is now attempting to fight against the deadly pollution, the least we can do is to cooperate. It is not just the government’s responsibility to bring down the pollution levels. I think we need to act as responsible and informed residents too. Akshat Mittal, a 13-year-old boy came up with a solution in the form of “odd-even.com”. It matches car owners with ride seekers through personal details, car types, frequency of rides etc. (It has been acquired by Orahi, check their site for further details, it might be of help to you.) I think more ideas and platforms to assist the scheme will be appreciated.
There are of course a few faults in the scheme, the first and the most talked about being the lack of robust public transport. Beijing had an extensive public transport to support its initiative. It also had an automatic surveillance system to track the implementation. Therefore, we cannot really plan to create the replica of Beijing’s scheme. But, considering the pollution levels, let us also agree that we have no time to improve the transport first and then implement the scheme.
In addition, there is a gender and class bias in the implementation of the rule. Do not women and two wheelers contribute to the pollution? Should not the enforcement of the scheme be more equitable? As per the study by IIT Kanpur, Two wheelers account for more than 30% of the air pollution in Delhi while Four wheelers account for only 10% of the pollution. Delhi Statistical Handbook* of 2014-2015 discloses 56.8 lakh registered two wheelers, almost double of the 28.7 lakh registered four wheelers. Out of the total vehicles that ply on Delhi roads, two wheelers account for 64% of the vehicles. Would not the entire purpose of odd even be defeated with the exemption of two wheelers? Arvind Kejriwal says that the public transport is not sufficient to handle so much load of passengers. Then, why not impose the rule on the two wheelers on different days?
The dialogue on feminism is doing many rounds these days. If we stress on the establishment of equal political, economic and social rights for women, then why not equally participate in the provisions of clean air. By exempting women from the scheme, Delhi government is actually propagating the idea that public transport is unsafe for women. Many women commute through metros, buses and autos on a daily basis, some for the cost factor and some to avoid the traffic hassles. I am sure others can do so on seven alternate days.
A lot of people did support the initiative last time around. Metros and Car Pools became the saviour for many people. Some left for office early and came back after 8 pm; others exchanged cars with their female relatives or friends on a day-to-day basis. A few of these steps did not to reduce the pollution but to some extent decreased the traffic congestion on roads at peak hours.
Now, did the phase one of odd even rule give us the desired results? The IndiaSpend’s Breathe air-quality monitoring devices detected an increase in pollution levels during the period. However, Delhi government claims inner circles of Delhi witnessed a positive impact while the border areas were not affected that much by the scheme. It further asserts that, had it not been for the scheme, the pollution levels had been much worse as January has the most negative weather conditions.
A message to the Delhi government: If the results are indeed effective, we will stand by you, but please reconsider your exemption list. Also, please try to focus on other solutions to curb the air pollution. A word of caution for you, Mr. Kejriwal, do not try to impose it too often. If you are seriously considering enforcing this once every month, think again. Let us be practical and acknowledge that in the absence of a comprehensive public transport support, the scheme would be inconvenient and unmanageable. You also do not want to encourage people to buy a second car as an alternative. Otherwise, you will have to impose a quota on license plates too as was done in Beijing.
An appeal to Uber, Ola and the likes (commercial vehicles are also exempted), please do not surge prices on odd even days. Your car pool option is a boon for those who do not have a direct access to the public transport, do not change it to a bane….
Please refer to the link, http://www.delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/doit_transport/Transport/Home/Pollution+Control/Steps+Taken+by+Delhi+Govt.+to+reduce+the+Pollution+in+Delhi, to know more about steps taken by the government to reduce the air pollution
A note on the scheme: The second phase of odd-even rule will commence from April 15 and will last for fifteen days. It involves the rationing of private vehicles on Delhi roads to reduce the air pollution. As per the rule, cars with license plates ending with even number can ply on the roads on even dates only and similarly cars with odd plates will be allowed on odd dates. There is a fine of INR 2000 for non compliance.
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