Delhi govt exempts two-wheelers from odd-even scheme

Experts criticise move, say it will negate any gains in terms of air quality from the scheme

By Shagun
Published: Thursday 17 October 2019

The Delhi government on October 17 added two-wheelers to the list of exemptions from its odd-even scheme that will come into force in the city from November 4-15.

Two-wheelers form the largest chunk of vehicles in Delhi and pollute more than private cars. This exemption could negate any gains made in terms of air quality from the upcoming odd-even scheme.  

The share of two-wheelers in the total vehicles in the national capital was a huge 56 per cent (6.38 million) in 2018, according to a study of emission inventory conducted by the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences last year.

Compared to this, personal cars (petrol and diesel) formed only 14 and eight per cent respectively of the total share.

That two-wheelers pollute more than cars has been highlighted by different studies in the past. A 2015 study by IIT Kanpur showed that for every type of pollutant, the share of two-wheelers was much more than cars.

For both PM10 and PM2.5, two-wheelers were the second highest polluting vehicles, just after trucks. While four wheelers emitted 10 per cent of the total load, two-wheelers’ share was at 33 per cent.

For Nitrogen Oxide (NOx), the share of two-wheelers was 20 per cent and that of four wheelers was 17 per cent. For Carbon Monoxide (CO), it was the highest out of all vehicle types at 43 per cent.

“For odd-even to be effective, the exemptions should be minimised; particularly two-wheelers, which are one of the major contributors to vehicular pollution should be included,” Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy, and head of air pollution programme, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said.

“The IIT Kanpur study shows that two-wheelers contribute about 33 per cent of the total particulate load on vehicular sources so if we keep them outside of the scope of the programme, then this will weaken the impact of the scheme,” she added.

In fact, out of their total share, there are around 30 lakh two-wheelers that are older than 15 years and over 15 lakh which are older than 10 years. These old vehicles would be many times more polluting than those which came out in the last five years.

The Union government study also highlighted how the emission load of those older than 10-15 years is much more than those registered in the last five years. For example, while five-year-old two-wheelers released 0.4 gram per kilometre carbon monoxide (CO), those older than 10 years released 1.65 g/km. Similarly, there was an increase of 92.31 per cent in particulate matter.

The two-wheelers inventory has grown rapidly in India. According to a report by CSE in June, the number of two-wheelers registered in India from 1951 to 2004 was 51.9 million. Almost twice the same number of two-wheelers was registered in ten
years (2005–15) — 102 million.

This is the third edition of the odd-even scheme in Delhi and even in the last two, the Delhi government had given exemption to two-wheelers, along with CNG cars and women drivers.

However, this year, while women drivers are still exempted, private CNG cars have been brought under the ambit of the drive.

The need to exempt two-wheelers every time arises as the public transport in the city is ill- equipped to deal with the extra load and unable to bear the burden that will shift to it during odd-even.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said on October 12 that while two-wheelers pollute the air and should not be exempted, it was impractical to take them off the roads, given their large number in Delhi.

The city’s public transport system is crippled and adequate attention has not been paid to development of public transport systems.

According to the estimates of the CSE report, the Delhi Metro makes around 25 lakh trips daily (as of June 2018), 10 per cent of motorised commuters; DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation) carries around 30 lakh trips daily (as of April 2018), 12 per cent of motorised commuters; and cluster buses carry 12 lakh trips (as of December 2018), 5 per cent of daily motorised commuter trips.

Therefore, a total of around 67 lakh trips are being catered to by the conventional public transport system of Delhi that comprises the Delhi Metro and the city bus system — accounting for roughly 27 per cent of the daily motorised trips.

Private vehicles, which constitute 94 per cent of the vehicular fleet of the city, therefore constitute at the most, some 40 per cent of the daily commute trips in Delhi. This adds to pollution and congestion. The remaining trips, at least according to the 2011 Census, would be on cycle or by walking.

The Delhi Master Plan 2020–21 has stated that by 2020–21, public transport ridership should be at least 80 per cent of all motorized trips. If this is taken into account, the 67 lakh trips amount to a deficit of almost 134 lakh trips (66 per cent) that needs to be catered to by public transport.

The odd-even drive, in which odd and even numbered cars will ply on alternate days, will be effective from 8 am to 8 pm from November 4-15, 2019.

However, according to the Graded Response Action Plan for Delhi and the National Capital Region, the scheme comes into effect automatically whenever the particulate matter PM10 and PM 2.5 rises to 500 microgram per cubic metre and 300 microgram per cubic metre respectively for 48 hours.

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