Odd-even formula fine, but will Delhi govt pass the implementation test?

New Delhi: The Arvind Kejriwal-led government on Friday launched a major offensive against the alarming air pollution in the National Capital by announcing an ‘odd and even number’ formula for cars. Under this, cars with odd and even numbers would ply on alternate days, thus reducing the number of cars on roads by 50 percent. It comes into effect from 1 January, 2016.

The government also wants to strengthen the public transport system and crack the whip on entry of trucks in the city to control smog.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“We are working out the modalities and once finalised there will be strict implementation of bans recommended in the proposal. In the odd-even formula, the last digit of the number will be considered. The vehicles used for emergency services would be kept out of its ambit. It’s an emergency-type situation in Delhi now due to pollution. If by closing down a power plant we can have clean air in Delhi, the government is ready for this trade-off,” said Chief Secretary of Delhi KK Sharma while addressing the media.

While the Delhi government has decided to shut down one of its oldest and least efficient thermal power plants at Badarpur commissioned in 1970s, it will ask the UP government to shut down the Dadri power plant as well.

If it succeeds in implementing the odd-even number formula, it’ll be the second city after Beijing to do so. In Beijing it was adopted in 2013. There are nearly 90 lakh registered vehicles in Delhi, and 1,500 new vehicles are added every day.

The move came just a day after the Delhi High Court made a scathing observation that the current air pollution levels in the National Capital have reached “alarming” proportions and it was akin to “living in a gas chamber”. The court directed the Centre and city government to present comprehensive action plans to combat it. The court also said two major causes of air pollution in Delhi were dust particles and vehicular emissions and directed the Centre and city governments to ensure that no construction of building or roads takes place without first ensuring that generation of dust was minimised.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, Ashish Khetan said, “VIP or no VIP, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal or any cabinet minister, the law will be applicable to all. We’re setting any immediate timeline, but after building a consensus and creating awareness, it will be implemented.”

However, the two most important aspects of the proposal are how far it is implementable and whether it’ll be aam aadmi-friendly.

Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said, “Implementation won’t be very smooth and it’s challenging. It needs to be seen how maximum routes are geographically covered by public transport and neighbourhood connectivity could be improved upon. At present due to severe traffic congestion, optimal utilisation of public bus service is not possible.

“Government has to come up with a larger bouquet of actions and also ensure that in the long term the purpose of restricting vehicles on roads doesn’t get defeated. There lies a risk that people may get two cars with even and odd numbers to circumvent the law. In addition, public should also understand and support the initiative, because in Delhi there’s one death per hour due to air-pollution related diseases, lungs of every third child is affected and there’s a steep rise in medication cost on respiratory and cardiac problems.”

Ravi Agarwal, director, Toxics Link, suggested, “The implementation of proposals should take place in stages, after a trial run. There shouldn’t be a blanket imposition of proposals; instead implementation should be in a progressive manner with a practical approach. Most of the commuters who travel by car do it not out of luxury but due to lack of alternative mode of transportation. A similar system has been implemented in London in a smaller section, but never in a traffic dense place like Delhi.”

Delhi government’s prescription:

· Odd and even numbered cars to ply on Delhi roads on alternative days.
· Extra buses to be added to DTC’s fleet; Delhi Metro asked to add new trains; thrust is on public transport.
· Auto-rickshaws to supplement.
· Entry of trucks inside Delhi after 11 pm (now 9 pm).
· Government will ask UP to shut down Dadri power plant.
· PWD to start urban forestry project on arid land.
· Restrict vehicles on roads.
· Stricter checking of pollution in vehicles
· EURO VI by 2017.
· Delhi may purchase power.

And here are the challenges:

· Infrastructure bottleneck.
· Short-staffed police force, including traffic police.
· Dealing with VVIPs, including Union ministers, ambassadors, embassy officials, foreign dignitaries, bureaucrats, Delhi L-G, chief minister, etc.
· Mechanism for imposition of penalty in case of violation of rules.
· Single family owning multiple vehicles.
· Practicality of odd-even number formula.

Citizens’ concern:

· What about the efficacy of the public transportation during the peak hours on week days?
· How citizens’ current transit will shift to another mode of transport?
· What if the public transport doesn’t work due to lack of buses, metro trains, auto-rickshaws, etc?
· What about personal emergency, if it happens on an odd day (as per the number formula)? Can he take out his/her car?
· What about the employees working in 24x7 jobs like call centres, etc or they drive to work at NCR, and returns the next day (as per the number formula)?
· What about senior citizens, disabled and patients, who need to move out and there is lack of local transport like cycle-rickshaw or auto-rickshaw, to ply them at least up to the bus stand or nearby metro station?

“There are a few queries that need to be addressed before final implementation. The commuters should first get options to switch over smoothly to a new system and then restrictions be imposed,” added Agarwal.

Updated Date: Dec 04, 2015 23:01 PM

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