Delhi implements a two-week car ban in attempt to clear air pollution

22 Jan

With air pollution at an all-time high in major cities around the world, Delhi are the latest to take action. Following in the footsteps of Paris and Beijing. The experiment has been launched to reduce car traffic that contributes to the poor air quality. More than a million private cars were banned from Delhi’s roads on Friday, as powers that be began an experimental scheme to battle smog in the world’s most polluted capital.

The city of nine million cars is the latest to implement an odd-even system which restricts driving rights for privately owned vehicles based on the last digit of the license plate as it corresponds to the date. On even days, only vehicles with even numbered plates are allowed to drive in the city. On odd days, odd numbered vehicles can be used. All of this is an attempt to reduce the emissions from car traffic that contributes to the worsening air pollution in India’s capital. Delhi officials have been battling with air pollution for years, and this isn’t the first attempt to slash car traffic. Despite previous efforts, the pollution problem hasn’t considerably improved.

To help subside the inconvenience commuters may face, the city added 3,000 additional buses for the two week experiment. A large number of the buses were borrowed from local city schools. Both officials and environmentalists claimed the public had accepted the emergency action plan and so it was put into place. Many government officials set an example taking public transportation, while Uber and taxi rides increased as well.

The experiment began on Monday 4th January 2016, the first full working day of the New Year. The restrictions continued for a two-week period, after which officials evaluated the results. In a city with approximately 3 million private cars, less than 200 motorists were stopped by police and fined 2,000 rupees (£20) for disobeying the Indian capitals first-ever licence plate driving ban. A large sum for most Delhiites.

 “What I saw today all across Delhi was very encouraging,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director of the thinktank Centre for Science and Environment. “There were very few even-numbered cars on the roads, and my overall sense is that people have accepted the need for such action.”

“But the biggest achievement today relates to public road transport. Not only were there more buses on the road, but due to less congestion the journey time of buses was much better. If Delhi is to succeed in this mission, only the metro is not enough. We need to augment and improve the bus system also.”

On the final day of the two week trail, air quality levels remained “very unhealthy”. Although Delhi commuters were nonetheless positive about the scheme, which the government may adopt on a more permanent basis, although mostly because it freed up traffic on the city’s usually clogged roads.

“The traffic situation in Delhi has really improved. Earlier, it used to take me nearly one hour to commute to work and back (home), but now the time has cut to half. It’s such a relief,” said Mr Rohit Srivastava, a 32-year-old bank executive who had been carpooling with his colleagues and taking the metro every second day.

In a city where road rules are routinely flouted, most drivers appeared to be obeying the restrictions and many said they viewed the scheme positively. The Delhi government said the trial resulted in a “more than 50% drop in air pollution primarily caused by vehicular traffic” at 18 locations in the city it had been monitoring.

A recent study by the Indian Institute of Technology, in Kanpur has shown that two other major sources of air pollution are road dust and goods truck emissions.


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