RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- THE ODD EVEN DEBATE
Its that time of the year again when the pollution level in the air quality index goes up to dangerous mark in the national capital and the ODD EVEN scheme is all set to make a return for the third time from 4th to 15th November. While various studies give conflicting reports about the success of previous editions of the odd even scheme in combating air pollution , Delhi Govt is finalising new guidelines for this edition. State transport department has suggested giving exemption to women drivers and two wheelers but the private CNG vehicles will come under the purview of odd even traffic rationing scheme.
Odd-even vehicle rule:
- Private vehicles will be allowed to run across the city based on their registration numbers.
- For example, if a vehicle’s registration number ends with an odd digit, it will be allowed on the road on January 1, while that ending with an even number can be driven on the second, and so on.
Is it enough:
Experts say the efficacy of the scheme would depend much on the availability of public transport. If public transport is robust, the government would be in a position to include all vehicles in the scheme, including more than 60 lakh two-wheelers that contribute heavily to the city’s pollution.
A short-term panacea
- In this way, the ‘‘odd-even” rule in Delhi during November is axiomatically justified as an emergency response to temporarily address the problem.
- When imposed for the first time in January 2016, congestion declined, the average speed of plying In Delhi increased, and consumer choice shifted to public trans¬ports.
- Impact assessment studies, however. reveal variable results.
- A study conducted by the University of Chicago, finds that the scheme of January’ 2016 helped in the reduction of particulate concentrations by 14-16 per cent, while another study by IIT and IIM finds impacts of 2-3 per cent decline in overall pollution levels.
- In a F.PW paper published on September 7, HM Lucknow researchers point out the biggest lacuna.
- They demonstrate while the scheme was introduced for private vehicles and two- wheelers.
- The sensitivity of pollution levels are Car higher for commercial vehicles.
- This indicates that restrictions on commercial vehicles will have more of an impact on pollution than private vehicles and two-wheelers do.
- Therefore, the “odd-even” rule will not solve the problem entirely. It can only touch the tip or the iceberg.
- This rule needs to be viewed as a policy-driven demand-management phenomenon with temporary applications, and needs to be complemented by various other measures to address the problem holistically.
Reasons for Delhi’s air pollution:
- The extreme use of crackers during the celebrations has raised the level of pollution in the city.
- The dip in temperature is causing an increasing incidence of upper respiratory tract infections and cases of viral fever, cough and cold.
- The difference of temperature (day and night) affects the immune system and results in infections as a person’s body does not get a chance to acclimatise to the sudden fall and rise in temperature.
- About 60 to 80 per cent of ozone concentration in Delhi was also attributed to sources outside the city.
- Stubble crop burning in this season is a major contributor to air pollution apart from road dust, industrial sources and vehicular emissions. NASA pictures have shown problems of stubble burning.
- With the onset of winter season, Delhi faces a critical phase of pollution due to meteorological conditions like wind pattern and low temperature, which aggravates pollution level especially concentration of particulate
- Delhi has the highest vehicle density in the country, and every year about 1,400 cars are added to the city’s roads.
- Domestic sources—people still burn coal, kerosene, cow dung and other dirty biomass fuels that the government cannot easily regulate.
- Particulate matter air pollution is generally worse in the winter during the “inversion” when cooler air temperatures trap smog closer to the ground.
- Harmful components including lead, zinc and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were found to be present in very high concentrations during winter season.
- The quantitative analysis shows that sources for particulate matter include soil, road dust and tailpipe emissions from vehicles.
- In winter, when a lot of people use wood and other substances for heating, lower temperatures, accompanied with little or no wind, can lead to a build-up of pollutants in the atmosphere.
- Adverse metrological factors like slow wind speed and moisture in the air, a major hindrance in the dispersion of suspended pollutants.
- The number of vehicles on the roads is increasing every day, but the space is the same. With lower speed, engine efficiency reduces and emission levels increase
- Two wheelers are exempted but they are one of the biggest culprits because they are 70% of the total vehicles.
- This has a devastating effect on our children’s development and health.
- It defeats the purpose of Odd Even if CNG vehicles are not exempted.
- Passenger cars which are under Odd Even constitute only 10-15% of the total vehicles.
- Even those with strong immunity will get affected if the intake of this air is for a prolonged period.
- Masks available in the market may not be enough to keep pollutants from getting into lungs.
- The state pollution control board faces institutional, technical, and manpower constraints.
- Delhi has 15 air pollution monitoring stations manned by the CPCB, of which only 10 are functional. In comparison, Beijing has 35 and London 100.
- The value of work time lost due to illness by the patient or the caregiver.
- Even though farmers are aware that the burning of straw is harmful to health, they do not have alternatives for utilising them effectively.
- The WHO says that breathing Delhi air for a day is equal to smoking 20 cigarettes.
- As per estimates, air pollution is costing India around three per cent of the GDP in terms of health costs.
- Promote public transport to cover underserved areas, encourage carpooling and cycles, incentivize motor vehicles running on CNG etc.
- Create awareness.
- Illegal burning of waste should be stopped.
- MSW collection and disposal should be stopped.
- Preventive measures like hike in parking fees and slashing of metro fares.
- Need for implementing long-term measures as the use of nasal filters or air purifiers can provide short-term relief only.
- In use vehicle emission control because PUC system is not upto mark and we need integrated approach.
- We also need to look at the content of pollution.
- Whole NCR should be seen as 1 unit for planning.
- Residents must avoid stepping out or doing outdoor activities during the early morning and evening hours.
- Doctors must address school children about air pollution and its hazards.
- CPCB should direct local bodies to check open burning of solid waste and strictly enforece rules related to prevention of emission from construction activities.
- Mechanical sweeping with water wash and vacuum-assisted sweeping of roads to reduce road dust emission.
- There is great potential for making investments in paddy straw-based power plants which can help avoid stubble burning and create employment opportunities.
- The efforts of the MoEFCC, ministry of power, MNRE, MoRTH, MoHUA, MOHFW and a variety of non-governmental partners must come together for dealing with air pollution.
- There must be political will for political parties and governments to firstly acknowledge the scale of this health emergency and then work together.
- To regulate automobiles — stringent measures are needed. For example, Singapore has decided to stop registration of all new vehicles.
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