The much-in-the-news “Odd Even” vehicle use formula in Delhi ends today. Will it be re-employed? Difficult to say with any certainty, but I think it will be back, with some changes. So what are the ‘pros and cons’ of what Delhi has experienced in the last fortnight? On the plus side is the fact that the Arvind Kejriwal government had the courage and conviction to impose such a rule. It was a huge risk and could have backfired politically, had it ended up upsetting the residents of Delhi. Fortunately, this did not happen. There were no major protests, strikes, violence or any real outrage of any sort. Personally I am very pleased by this because it shows that if it’s in larger public interest, harsh laws can be implemented and people do abide by them. In fact this has re-kindled hope that we can change things in our country and the situation is not as hopeless as many of us believe. Other benefits-
· Even if it was at short notice, the concerned authorities were able to implement and enforce the law.
· The residents understood the need for such strong measures and co-operated.
· Awareness about the hazards of pollution has spread among people and they have become more conscious about the need to control it.
· There were fewer traffic jams due to the fewer vehicles and traffic flowed more freely.
· People started car-pooling and hopefully this practice will grow even more. This is one factor that can contribute a lot.
· Opposition parties did not oppose it in a big way.
· The Supreme Court supported the rule and even admonished a lawyer who challenged it. The court also advised citizens that individual concerns and discomforts had to be laid aside for the common good.
But what about the pollution, did it reduce in the last fifteen days? There is still no completely confirmed answer to this and most of the pollution meters still showed PM (particulate matter) levels way above permissible limits. Of course there is a slight drop in the levels but what the “Odd Even” formula has ended up proving, is that lots more needs to be done to reduce pollution and automobiles are not the only ones responsible for it. Hopefully, the government will wake up to this fact and take measures to -
· Reduce construction dust which is responsible for a significant portion of PM (particulate matter). Builders and contractors must be forced to ensure no dust is flying around and the surroundings of the construction site are moist and covered.
· Put a stop to open burning of rice straw after harvesting, as this releases a large amount of air pollutants.
· Check emissions from diesel generators and control it.
· Stop burning of garbage.
· Increase the ‘Green Cover’.
· Pave or green open dusty areas.
· Put a stop to adulteration of fuel which causes more pollution.
· Create exclusive cycling lanes and make commuting by bicycle safer and easier.
· Put up public bike stations where people can pick up bicycles from point A and drop the same bike at point B for a small fee. This will release people from the responsibility of buying a bicycle and then taking it everywhere and looking after it.
· Increase public transport. Delhi already has a good Metro system, what is needed is to add lot more coaches.
· Bring two-wheelers and other vehicles under the ambit of the “Odd Even” formula.
· Reduce the number of exemptions given for the “Odd Even” rule.
The government has now advanced the date to move to BS-VI norms by April 2020. Is this practical and can it be done, is the subject for another column. But let’s presume it gets done. Will the pollution levels drop drastically? Drop they will, but not drastically. Because the law for two-wheelers and commercial vehicles is different and the government always treats them with kiddies gloves. This will have to change if we have to reign in pollution. The emission rules for all vehicles should be stringent; you cannot have one for cars and a different one for trucks and buses, or for that matter two wheelers.