By Pragya Singh
New Delhi, Sep 16 (IANS) Without a comprehensive plan to address air pollution in the national capital, the odd-even scheme that is set to make a comeback in November will only provide limited gains, environment experts say.
“A study conducted jointly by the scientists of IITs and IIMs has shown that the odd-even scheme has only been able to reduce the pollution levels by 2 to 3 per cent rather than the Delhi Government’s claims of 10-13 per cent reduction in pollution levels,” Vimlendu Jha, an Environmentalist and founder of Sweccha said.
He batted for a comprehensive and a long-term action plan and adequate policy level decisions to combat the menace of air pollution in the city.
“Delhi experiences poor air quality levels on almost 350 days a year. For the last three years, we have had only ten good air quality days on an average; when the Air Quality Index (AQI) was lower than 50. Delhi needs a plan for these 340 days,” he said.
AQI is the parameter to assess air quality. An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered “Good,” while an AQI between 50 and 100 means that the air quality is “Moderate”.
“Measures such as mechanised sweeping of roads, sprinkling of water and mass distribution of the masks, which were announced with the implementation of the odd-even scheme, are not policy decisions. The government needs to work on strengthening of the public transportation system. Only 25 new buses have been added in the national Capital under this government, while the Supreme Court had ordered that the national Capital should have a fleet of 10,000 buses,” he said.
It was in July 1998 that the Supreme Court directed the Delhi government to augment its fleet of buses to 10,000 by April 2001, but over 20 years and six governments later, the total buses in the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) cluster fleet stands at 5,576.
Anumita Roy Chowdhury, Executive Director, Research and Advocacy, Centre For Science and Environment (CSE) said that private vehicles cannot be left out in the fight against air pollution. Citing a study conducted by The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), she said the vehicles constitute 40 per cent of the total air pollution in the city.
“Odd-even scheme is part of the emergency action-plan implemented by the government, so that the vehicular emissions do not add to the already spiking levels of pollution. Globally, it is a practice by the various dispensations to introduce such measures to combat the rising levels of pollution,” she said.
Vehicle owners need to take the onus of fighting against the deteriorating air quality levels in winters, she added.
She said under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), when due to the weather conditions, the pollutions levels got exacerbated in the last two years, a host of actions are taken on various sources of emissions such as shutting the coal-based power plants, ban on construction work and imposition of penalty on burning of garbage.
The Delhi Government on September 13 announced that the odd-even road rationing scheme, that was first introduced in 2016, will make its comeback from November 4 to November 15. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that the scheme will be implemented to tackle air pollution exacerbated by stubble burning in neighbouring northern states during the winter.
The move is part of the seven-point stubble burning action plan aimed at combating high levels of air pollution. The plan will include measures such as extensive tree plantation, mechanised sweeping of roads and sprinkling of water, mass distribution of anti-pollution masks and improving the air quality at 12 hotspots.