The Big Picture – Pollution in Metros: Practical options on Pollution
The Delhi government recently announced that vehicles with Odd and Even number plates will ply on alternate days in the city from January 1st. This is an effort to curb rising pollution in the national capital. This policy has been tried by many other cities across the world. While some cities have seen genuine reduction in pollution levels, the policy has failed in many other cities. It is known fact that Delhi’s pollution levels are off the roof and something drastic needs to be done. Delhi High Court recently described the city as a gas chamber on account of its alarming air pollution and this compelled the Government announce this new strategy.
According to experts, the government should first implement this policy on small scale and then later on extend it to large scale. There are also other related issues that the Government will have to manage like fake car plates, which will proliferate as Delhi commuters try to work their way around the rules. People who can afford will just buy a second car to work around the law. The ban also unfairly penalises low-emissions vehicles (for instance, those running on CNG) by treating them on par with high-emissions vehicles. And by exempting public and commercial vehicles (like autos and taxis), the policy also creates a situation where many more commercial vehicles will be needed to meet demand. This could end up increasing emissions.
Along with such policies also needed is holistic policy intervention, from better urban planning, better civic infrastructure, particularly solid waste management, vastly improved public transport, as well as better regulation and supervision of the construction sector. Polluting industries need to be made compliant or shut down, thermal power plants need to be relocated away from population clusters, and alternatives need to be found for India’s rising dependence on trucks for freight movement.
The move to curb the movement of cars and two-wheelers also raises questions of their practicability. More rules and policy decisions have to be framed to take care of several eventualities. It is unclear yet whether the traffic police would be mandated to enforce the odd-even rules or what penalties are to be imposed. Also, many parts of the city lack public transport access putting motorists in difficulty. The likelihood of fake number plates needs to be considered too. Though the Delhi government had mandated high security number plates for all vehicles, its compliance has been far from satisfactory. Delhi metro rides are also getting increasingly congested, reflecting the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation’s inability to ramp up its services. Access and frequency of buses in the city continue to remain a major problem.
The fight to improve Delhi’s environment cannot be left to the state government alone. The Union government has also role in it. Work on the two peripheral expressways that will help heavy vehicles plying through North India to skirt Delhi must be expedited. The Bharat Stage-VI fuel norms should be put in place. The citizens must also co-operate to clean up the Capital’s environment.