Residents of Delhi are gearing up for drastic measures aimed at cleaning up the world’s most polluted city. For a two-week period starting January 1, those driving cars with license plates ending with an even number will only be allowed to drive on even-numbered dates.
Similarly, those who own cars with license plates ending with an odd number will only be allowed on the roads on odd-numbered dates. It’s one part of a series of initiatives which the state government hopes will clean up its act. It follows a court order focused on tackling pollution levels which are 10 times the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) safe limits.
The restrictions will be in place from 8am to 8pm everyday except Sunday, which should see a dramatic fall in the 8.5 million vehicles that use Delhi’s congested and smog-filled roads. According to a survey conducted by WHO, Delhi is the most polluted of 1,600 cities around the world, ‘beating’ the likes of Beijing and Shanghai.
[bctt tweet=”Delhi is the most polluted of 1,600 cities around the world, ‘beating’ the likes of Beijing and Shanghai.”]
It’s a growing problem across India, with research carried out by the Central Pollution Control Board revealing that 15 out of 17 cities monitored failed to meet the ambient air quality standard.
Speaking about the survey, Greenpeace India campaigner, Sunil Dahiya, told The Times of India: “As the political capital – and indeed, the most polluted of all cities – the bad air in Delhi gets the most attention. But, scratch below the murky surface, and you will find concentrations of PM2.5 (particulate matter) in several other cities that would justify the triggering of a ‘red alert’ like Beijing does.”
Beijing uses a four-level alarm system that imposes restrictions depending on how poor the air quality is. These can range from restricting the use of vehicles to reducing the emissions from factories and power stations.
For its part, Delhi is rolling out a series of similar initiatives, in addition to the odd-even driving scheme. These include forcing all taxi operators to convert to natural gas by March 31, a temporary ban on the registration of SUVs, minivans and large diesel-powered cars, the closure of some coal-fired power stations and even the vacuuming of roads.
Anyone caught disobeying the odd-even rules face a fine of 2,000 rupee – approximately £20 – leading opponents of the scheme to claim Delhi will see a rise in the number of fake license plates, as drivers attempt to flout the law. In India it is called ‘jugaad’, a word that is used to describe an innovative fix or bending of the rules.
Delhi’s transport minister, Gopal Rai, said: “The biggest challenge is to make people realise that this fight against pollution is for them, for their health, for their own good.
“They will only be cheating themselves with jugaad. There is no magic button that will make the pollution disappear. We must act now.”
[bctt tweet=”There is no magic button that will make the pollution disappear. We must act now.”]
But some residents will not have to worry about the restrictions, with the state government outlining a number of exemptions. These include women travelling alone or with a child under the age of 12. Drivers with disabilities are also exempt, as are riders of two-wheeled vehicles. Drivers who own electric vehicles, hybrids or cars and vans converted to run on natural gas are also free to continue driving as normal.
School classes have been cancelled for the two-week trial period, with the government commandeering the school buses for use as commuter transport. Once the trial period is over, the Delhi government will evaluate the findings and decide whether or not to continue with the odd-even scheme.
Image © Onewhohelps at English Wikinews