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Environment

As Wind Gives Delhi Respite, Odd-Even Scheme Takes Off

The Supreme Court, meanwhile, has said that the solution lies in improving public transport and has directed the states to stop stubble burning.

New Delhi: A day after air pollution breached the ‘hazardous’ 1,000 mark on the Air Quality Index, a steady wind blew much of the smog away, bringing the AQI below the 300 mark in many parts. On the same day, the fourth episode of the odd-even vehicle rationing scheme kicked in, in Delhi.

The scheme was earlier implemented by the Arvind Kejriwal government in January and April 2016, and then in November 2017.

With experts in the past differing on its success in curtailing pollution, the Supreme Court, while hearing the air pollution matter, on Monday, called into question its efficacy.

A brainchild of Kejriwal, the scheme has, in the past, earned him accolades from media abroad despite experts at home and even abroad questioning its benefits.

Experts divided on efficacy

It may be recalled that following the January 2016 exercise, the success of which Kejriwal had claimed, the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), an independent think tank, had stated that there was no conclusive evidence to prove that the odd-even scheme improved Delhi’s air quality or reduced traffic congestion.

It had carried out a study in collaboration with Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.

Later, a joint study by atmospheric scientists of IITs and IIM in 2017 had also noted that there was only partial reduction in pollution levels due to the odd-even scheme.

Air pollution in Delhi on October 30. Photo: PTI

Tackling rising pollution

This year, anticipating a rise in pollution at around this time, the Delhi government had announced the scheme in mid-October. The system will run till November 15.

While on odd and even days only private four wheelers with the last digit on the registration plate matching with the odd-even day will be able to run, nearly 7.3 million registered two wheelers have been exempted from the scheme. But the Delhi government believes that by keeping half of the three million four-wheelers off the roads each day, the scheme would be able to meet with some success.

As the scheme got underway, Kejriwal took to Twitter.

More Metro trains, buses inducted to facilitate commuters

For the scheme, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation increased the number of train trips by 61 in order to meet a greater rush of commuters. The Delhi government also stated that it would be pressing nearly 2,000 more buses but some reports said it had managed to rope in operators of about 500 more.

To popularise the scheme, Kejriwal himself travelled to work by an even-numbered vehicle. His deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia tried to set an example by riding a cycle to work.

BJP opposes moves, three leaders get themselves challaned

The opposition decried the scheme. Three BJP leaders – former union minister Vijay Goel, BJP vice-president Shyam Jaju and West Delhi MP Parvesh Verma – deliberately drove in private odd-numbered vehicles to defy the law and got themselves challaned voluntarily.

Also read: Politicians Bicker as Delhi Chokes

This time the fine amount has been increased from Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,000 for a violation.

Banning some vehicles won’t help, need better public transport: SC

Later in the day, as the Supreme Court heard the matter of rising air pollution, it also questioned the logic behind conducting the odd-even scheme.

During the hearing, the bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta said banning one vehicle and allowing another would not alter the situation radically. “What is needed is better public transport,” it added.

The court was on October 25 urged by the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority to have an “urgent” hearing in the matter.

It asked the Centre to call in environment experts from IIT-Delhi and from the ministry within half-an-hour to suggest immediate measures to be taken to deal with the pollution crisis.

Rs 1 lakh for construction ban violation

In keeping with the EPCA declaring a public health emergency in the National Capital Region on November 1, the apex court also put a halt on all construction and development activity in Delhi NCR and declared a Rs 1 lakh fine for violation.

It also directed the Centre and Delhi government to work together to deal expeditiously with the issue of garbage disposal. It ordered that a fine of Rs 5,000 be imposed for garbage burning and also directed sprinkling of water on roads to contain dust.

SC summons chief secretaries over stubble burning

The court also took note of the issue of stubble burning in several states, especially Punjab, leading to a major pollution problem. “Delhi has been choking every year and we have not been able to do anything…governments only passing the buck…why should there be crop burning?” it asked.

The court also issued stern directions for dealing with crop burning. It noted that “everyone, from chief secretary to gram pradhan will be held liable (of contempt of court) if there is further incident of stubble burning.” The apex court also directed the chief secretaries of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to appear before it on November 6.

Meanwhile, Haryana deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala stated that his government has urged the Centre to convene a joint meeting of all the concerned states on the issue. “I have taken charge of the office today. I’ll also write in that capacity to the Prime Minister over the issue,” he tweeted.

Environment minister says several meetings held

From the Centre, Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar claimed that his government has already held several meetings with the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan on the issue of stubble burning.

Javadekar, who was earlier attacked by Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, for postponing three meetings in the last month and a half, questioned the sincerity of AAP government of Delhi in dealing with the pollution situation by asking how many of the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) directives has it followed.