Air pollution levels go down after rain: No odd-even scheme in Delhi for now

Supreme Court had termed the scheme as optics

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 10 November 2023
Photo: Midhun Vijayan

There will be no odd-even road rationing scheme in Delhi at this time, the Delhi government said on November 10, 2023. On November 8, the government had proposed implementing the scheme from November 13, a day after Diwali, in an effort to rein in vehicular pollution control. However, as pollution levels on the Air Quality Index (AQI) dipped following overnight rains in the national capital, the plan has been postponed for now. 

The odd-even traffic scheme was first implemented in December 2016. The plan was then repeated in 2017 and 2019, has been a matter of debate with no comprehensive study backing the step in its efficacy to curb vehicular pollution. 

On November 9, 2023, the Supreme Court termed the odd-even scheme as “optics” and appeared to question its efficacy and success in the past in reducing the dangerously high pollution levels, reported the newspaper Hindustan Times. The court asked the government to revert on November 10.

The apex court had also enquired about the efficacy of the colour-code scheme by which polluting diesel vehicles were identified by their orange stickers on their windscreens and suggested a total ban on orange sticker vehicles for the time being.

What was proposed

The Delhi government had proposed the road rationing scheme in the stage 4 of the Graded Response Action Plan, under which BS3 and BS4 vehicles remain banned. The stage 4 of the GRAP kicks in when air quality index reaches severe+ levels (AQI value of 450+) The scheme restricts only privately-owned car traffic based on registration numbers. 

An affidavit by the Delhi government quoted scientific reports that the odd-even scheme of vehicular pollution control was an “effective emergency measure which reduces 30 per cent personal car traffic on the roads during winter months”, reported the newspaper The Hindu.

Excluding electric cars, 2,074,194 cars are registered in Delhi as of November 8, 2023. Two-wheelers and taxis are exempt from the odd-even rule. 

An affidavit by the Delhi government quoted scientific reports, The Hindu reported, that the odd-even scheme of vehicular pollution control was an “effective emergency measure that reduces 30 per cent personal car traffic on the roads during winter months”.

However, there was usually a proportionate increase in two-wheelers, autorickshaws, buses and taxis. While app-based taxis could be restricted on the basis of fuel type / registration number, restricting all taxis registered outside Delhi from entering the Capital was an undesirable proposition, it added.

Is it effective

Emissions from cars and other vehicles in Delhi was the single-largest contributor to air pollution in the capital, a 2021 study by Delhi-based think tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had found. 

The odd-even scheme limits the number of vehicles on the road on any given day and can potentially reduce traffic congestion and decrease overall vehicular emissions. However, it cannot be seen as a long term measure – it is an “emergency” one, and should be treated as such, Director General of CSE Sunita Narain said in 2016. She further pointed out the step reduces the rate of increase of pollution, and not  pollution levels themselves. 

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