The National Green Tribunal Saturday gave a nod to the Delhi government to go ahead with the odd-even scheme, as an emergency step to curb high air pollution levels in Delhi. However, it asked the government to remove all exemptions from the scheme except for emergency vehicles. In the light of this order, the Delhi Government decided to call off the implementation of the scheme from 13-17 November, stating it would not “compromise with the safety of women”.
Should emergency measures to tackle air pollution like the odd-even scheme have exemptions? We bring sharp perspectives.
Odd-even is an emergency scheme by definition. It is a car-restraint measure, part of the emergency response system to combat air pollution.
When we talk about an emergency, two important factors should considered ahead of implementation. First, it should be linked to data. Whenever there is an emergency level reached for air pollution, according to the graded response action plan, car-restraint measures have to be brought in immediately, not from a defined date. Second, the emergency system is put in place to completely remove the pollution load from vehicles, or reduce it as much as possible. So, no exemptions are possible – not for two-wheelers, for VIPs, or for women. Exemptions are only for emergency vehicles, and cleaner vehicles, which are either CNG run, purely electric, or strong hybrids.
But in order to do this without causing any kind of unrest in society, we need to have certain long-term measures placed before and after the emergency measures. These include upgradation of public transport infrastructure, to ensure proper last-mile connectivity, which is missing in Delhi. The focus of the transport system, public or private, should be on movement of people, rather than on movement of vehicles. As soon as you apply this parameter, you give priority to public transport modes such as the bus, which is missing in Delhi.
Here are other sharp perspectives on the odd-even scheme:
The last two phases of odd-even were announced much in advance, so they were not linked to data. There were too many exemptions given in the second phase. A study done by Chicago University also showed that the total number of cars effectively moved off the roads during these days was so small that the effective pollution came down only by seven per cent. This is not an insignificant number, but in order to increase the effect of these emergency measures, they need to be applied without any exceptions.
Polash Mukerjee is senior researcher, air pollution team at Centre for Science and Environment