Delhi pollution: Will Odd-Even vehicle plan make a comeback?

Delhi pollution has once again reached alarming levels with schools and colleges in the capital city being shut owing to the rising toxicity in the air. Even as the political blame game continues unabated, the Supreme Court has taken a grim view of the entire situation and has even suggested a two-day lockdown as a possible measure for consideration. Meanwhile, many are wondering if the Odd-Even vehicle rationing plan will also be imposed once again across Delhi.

File photo used for representational purpose. (Bloomberg)
File photo used for representational purpose.

The AQI in Delhi and adjoining satellite cities remains in ‘Severe’ category. While the Delhi government blames stubble fire in adjoining states and many point to the lack of FIRs and record number of such fires being seen by satellites, other factors like low or negligible wind speed, local construction and vehicular emissions are also seen as contributing to the toxic cocktail.

While the Delhi government had previously re-launched the ignition off campaign at traffic signals when stationary, the benefit, if any, is believed to be minute. The question, therefore, remains if the Odd-Even plan will be relaunched.

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The Odd-Even vehicle rationing plan was first imposed in Delhi in the winter months of 2016. It was again brought in in 2017 and then in 2019. While pollution was a major concern even last year, there had been no Odd-Even program. But this year could be a whole lot different because of how grave the situation is at hand.

What is Odd-Even vehicle rationing plan?

The Odd-Even vehicle rationing plan refers to a system under which cars with registration plate with even last number are permitted on one day, followed by odd number on the next day. Certain vehicles are exempted from the plan and are permitted on all days. This includes emergency vehicles, VVIP vehicles and electric vehicles.

The odd-even plan also includes two-wheelers.

Does Odd-Even scheme even work to solve pollution crisis?

It is not exactly established how much benefit there is from Odd-Even vehicle rationing plan in the particular case of Delhi. While advocates say vehicular emissions are brought down significantly, critics argue the benefits are too minor for such a plan to be in place for a week or even two.

Globally, cities like Beijing, Paris, Mexico City, Rome, Milan and Colombia's Bogot have imposed similar restrictions but each city tends to have its own factors contributing to air pollution and may see varying degrees of success.

There is no denying that the vehicular population of Delhi is quite high. But past studies have differed on halving the number of vehicles plying within city limits on any particular day of odd-even plan. A Central Pollution Control Board study in 2019, for instance, found that while pollution levels had reduced by a certain degree prior to and after odd-even plan, there was no single factor behind it. A study in Current Science actually claimed pollution had gone up during odd-even days and stated that more people were traveling before and after the restriction hours, or even using cabs and three-wheelers which may be more polluting than personal vehicles.

Those who back odd-even policy still maintain that there is no harm in having the scheme in the city as traffic congestion eases during the period. But is it really worth bringing back the scheme once again to battle a familiar, invisible and lethal foe?

First Published Date: 15 Nov 2021, 12:30 PM IST
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