Delhi is the most polluted city in the world according to recent WHO report. Classified as the world’s fifth megacity, it has a population of 25.8 million, which continues to grow. With this growth, according to a study, the number of road vehicles would increase from 4.7 million in 2010 to nearly 26 million by 2030. The total energy consumption in Delhi has risen 57 per cent from 2001 to 2011.
In order to curb this second phase of Odd-Even scheme started by the Delhi government on 15 April 2016 came to an end on 30 April 2016.
Riding high on the success of Phase-1 of the scheme from 1 January – 15 January 2016, the scheme aimed at curbing vehicular pollution and reducing traffic congestion on city roads.
Under the scheme four-wheelers with odd registration numbers will ply on odd dates and those with even numbers on even dates. Its rule will be in operation from 8 AM to 8 PM. However, the scheme will not be applicable on Sundays.
Further, under the scheme, President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Union Ministers and other VIPs have been exempted. Besides, vehicles driven by women, emergency vehicles, CNG vehicles and cars carrying school children in uniforms will be exempted.
However, the rules of the odd-even scheme will apply on Delhi Chief Minister and his cabinet colleagues. The violation of rule will attract a penalty of 2000 rupees.
In order to make the second phase a success, the state government has also roped in over 5000 Civil Defence Volunteers at various traffic points who will motivate the people to follow the rules of the scheme.
Is air pollution in Delhi reduced?
As per a study conducted by CPCB on the direction of National Green Tribunal (NGT), there was no reduction in air pollutants during the second phase of Odd-Even scheme.
Further, even the Supreme Court asked on 30 April why AAP government’s much-hyped traffic rationing scheme has not been able to reduce pollution level in the Capital and steps taken to achieve ambient air quality standards seemed not to be working.
Let’s see the relevant statistics in this regard
The levels of ozone, which scientists describe as the most critical summer pollutant in Delhi, between 15 April and 30 April, peaked at 88 parts per billion or 176 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m⊃3;) on April 30, the last day of the odd-even scheme, according to SAFAR data. In comparison, during April 1-15, the levels peaked at around 60 parts per billion or 120 µg/m⊃3; on April 6.
However, on 24 April, ozone levels hit 75 parts per billion or 150 µg/m⊃3;, which was the first sharp rise seen during the scheme, from around 62 parts per billion or 124 µg/m⊃3; the preceding day.
According to the scientists, comparing this with data from April 2015, the trends are quite similar On April 24 last year, ozone levels had peaked at 90 parts per billion or 180 µg/m⊃3;, the highest between April 15-30.
Particulate Matter (PM) – 1
System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research ( SAFAR) also monitored the finer PM 1 particles, or particles of size less than 1 micron, which are known to penetrate deep into the lung tissues and the cardiovascular tract. Between April 15-30, the data shows, PM 1 levels peaked on April 30 at around 78 µg/m⊃3;.
In comparison, between April 1-15, PM 1 levels peaked at around 70 µg/m⊃3; on April 3.
PM 2.5 is the pollutant most directly associated with combustion in vehicles, according to scientists. It includes all particles of size less than 2.5 microns. According to SAFAR data, between April 15-30, PM 2.5 levels peaked at 190 µg/m⊃3; on April 30, almost double the level on the same date in 2015.
Between April 1-15 this year, just before the odd-even scheme started, PM 2.5 levels peaked at 137 µg/m⊃3; on April 3.
Delhi Pollution Control Centre (DPCC) data for larger particles of size less than 10 microns which are associated with vehicular and other types of pollution such as road dust, smoke emitted from garbage and other kind of fires shows levels showed the sharpest spikes during the last week of April 2016.
According to Dr B Sengupta, former Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) member secretary, said PM 10 levels could also be associated with an increase in spontaneous fires observed in 2016 due to the spike in temperatures.
Air Quality Index (AQI)
According to the daily summary of the AQI from seven stations in Delhi, between April 23-28 2016, AQI increased consistently from 262 to 332. On April 29 and 30, the AQI dipped marginally to 314 and 316 respectively.
Why pollution not reduced?
Firstly, care must be taken to compare the level of pollutants in 2016 with the 2015 data. As summer pollutant patterns as such are different from winter pollutants and not contributed by particulates alone. In 2015, there were also a lot of rainy days during this period, which could have led to the apparently low pollutant levels,” said Anumita Roychowdhury from the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
Secondly, the impact of the scheme should not be assessed on short-term basis. The impact of the scheme could be assessed scientifically only after comparing the 15 days with the whole summer season.
Thirdly, as the experience worldwide as in China showed that, odd-even scheme in isolation cannot achieve the intended objective of reducing the pollution. It has to be supplemented with other measures like effective transportation policy with strict monitoring of the scheme.
Fourthly, gained from the experience of first phase, many commuters in order to escape the Odd-Even booked cabs. This lead to increase in the number of cabs on the roads, which in turn choked the roads having little impact on air pollution.
Fifthly, according to the study by IIT Kanpur, vehicles are number four in the hierarchy of pollution sources, accounting for 20 percent of PM 2.5 and 9 percent of PM 10 concentrations in Delhi’s air. Road dust is the city’s biggest polluter, accounting for 38 percent of PM 2.5 and 56 percent of PM 10 concentrations. Two wheelers, which are exempt from the odd-even rule, account for 33 percent of all PM10 and PM 2.5 emissions by vehicles.
Irrespective of whether the odd-even scheme was effective or not, it has surely been influential not just in Delhi but all over India as well. For instance, Manali administration in April 2016 decided to implement the odd-even on the Manali-Leh highway to reduce the congestion.
Thus, the trial period of the odd-scheme had an impact on the nation in more ways than one.
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