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Is there a Impact of ‘Odd Even’ on Delhi’s Air Quality?

With all the hoopla generated over The Odd Even implementation in media domains, prime-time news spots, social media, somewhere down the line the main cause is getting shadowed- dangerous pollution levels in my city- Dilli. Being a Delhite, I am witnessing it right here at ground zero. Yes, my personal convenience is going for  a toss, Yes, the meetings with deodorant allergic(read non-users) fellow Delhites have become frequent but then the air I breathe is little cleaner, the honking on roads is little less, I also witnessed traffic free roads, a rare sight in 25 years of my existence!

Traffic free roads in Delhi - Mythical India

I think our man, Arvind Kejriwal, the CM of ever volatile Delhi, has finally got this one right! The much debated odd-even plan for vehicular movement in Delhi finally came in existence on the first day of 2016.Although it was initially tanked when the proposal first came in news, but initial results suggest it might prove to be the much needed medicine for pollution free Delhi. One must not forget that for a national capital like Delhi every decision is a do or die situation for the ruling government because everyone including the opposition, civil society representatives, the NGO’s wants to prove a point to government even if the decision is for a right cause.

Arvind Kerjiwal rode bicycle to promote Odd-Even - Mythical India

Let’s have a look some exemptions granted by the government for the pilot run between January 1 to January 15.

Exemptions from the Odd Even Rule?

  • All CNG-driven vehicles
  • Electric vehicles/ Hybrid vehicles
  • Two-wheeler
  • Vehicles driven by women, with only women passengers
  • Vehicles driven by women, with children below the age of 12
  • Those on way to hospital for medical emergency (should carry proof)
  • Vehicles of physically challenged
  • Emergency vehicles – Ambulance, fire, hospital, prison, hearse, enforcement vehicles, etc
  • Political dignitaries like president of India, the prime minister etc

To make the pilot a success government has made following additional logistical arrangements:

  • 3,000 extra buses on capital’s roads, these buses have been borrowed from Delhi’s schools.
  • Delhi metro would run 198 trains to make an additional 365 trips every day.
  • Launch of Pooch-O mobile app to assist commuters book GPS fitted autos and taxis.
  • In addition to these, in order to ensure strict adherence to the initiative a fine of Rs 2000 would be imposed on violators.
  • The government has also solicited help from civil society volunteers and school children in order to spread awareness among the commuters.

Business opportunity in disguise?

Odd-Even initiative has also come as blessing in disguise for some companies. Several Tech and non-tech companies have latched on to this opportunity and have devised ways to business sense out of it. For instance, Twitter will help commuters search information about nearest bus and metro stations by using the hashtag #pollutionfreeDelhi and entering the origin and destination.

Odd-Even awareness - Mythical India

Cab aggregation companies like Meru, Ola, Uber have started offering car pooling services, which would ease commuter woes. Ola’s ‘CarPool’ feature will allow residents in Delhi-NCR to pool rides using their private cars through Ola’s app.

Bumpy ride?

Every change initiates with a resistance. In this case too, it is happening:

  • On 4th Jan, the first official working day of the year, Delhi metro witnessed swarms of people desperate to reach their offices.
  • Some schools who initially agreed to provide their buses to DTC, refused to do so.
  • Moreover, most of the schools have been closed for this duration, but this is one time affair what will happen once they reopen, how will the government ensure that sufficient buses are on road? 

Reality check

Real time pollution stats published by SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research), particularly for the main air pollutant PM2.5 (Fine particulate matter), substantiate the government claims that there is a declining trend observed in PM 2.5 levels from Dec 25 2015 to Jan 11 2016 after Odd-Even implementation.

Stats published by SAFAR after Odd-Even implementation - Mythical India
Stats published by SAFAR after Odd-Even implementation

The Road ahead…

The sole aim of this implementation was to improve the air quality of one of world’s most polluted city. Although the actual results will come after the duration of this pilot, it has bought along a welcome relief for Delhites from Delhi’s notorious bumper to bumper traffic. Common People and celebrities are thronging social media like Facebook, Twitter etc. lauding the government efforts. The scheme has been implemented in other countries like china as well but it has not proved to be a sustainable solution.

However, the policy makers should also consider the fact that private cars are not the sole/single cause of pollution in Delhi. There are varied sources of pollution like burning of biomass in open, heavy commercial vehicles crossing in from other states etc which combine with unpredictable meteorological conditions and the city’s topography (resembling a saucer) which in the absence of a strong breeze makes it a pollutant hotbed. A sincere effort to make Delhi pollution free should be a holistic plan including remedies to all causes of Delhi pollution. As a matter of fact, the odd even plan can become a starting point to reconstruct Delhi’s urban roadmap and make it a world class city.

Need to curb other major sources of pollution as well - Mythical India
Need to curb other major sources of pollution as well

Though the implementation has come at the cost of personal inconvenience but as responsible members of society we must welcome this much needed initiative to clean the very air we breathe after all there is a price for everything!!!

Written by Anurag Mahajan

I am a wanderer in this world full of emotions, mystical creations,imaginations & relations. There is a curious traveler inside me who wants to explore , create and understand the what and how of things by experiencing them and not by hearing them from somebody else. It is this zeal which has motivated me to explore and share my experiences with others.

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