New Delhi: The odd-even road rationing scheme may return in Delhi as the National Capital Region continued to reel under “severe" levels of air pollution for the second consecutive day on Wednesday. Air pollution in the region is currently bordering the “emergency or severe plus" level. Authorities will decide on Thursday whether the odd-even rule needs to be re-introduced to control vehicular pollution.
The odd-even rule was first implemented by the Delhi government in January 2016, and re-introduced in April of that year. Under it, private non-commercial vehicles are allowed out on the capital’s streets on alternate days—odd days if the vehicle’s licence plate ends in an odd number, and even days if it ends in an even number.
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It is one of the measures listed to tackle “severe plus" levels of air pollution in the comprehensive action plan that the Supreme Court cleared in December 2016 to tackle high levels of air pollution in Delhi NCR.
Meanwhile, concerned over the high air pollution levels in Delhi NCR, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) task force on Wednesday evening recommended immediate actions like stopping all civil construction work in Delhi and the entry of trucks except those carrying essential commodities.
CPCB’s task force advised the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), tasked with implementation of the comprehensive pollution-tackling plan in Delhi-NCR, to take actions listed in the “severe plus" category. The two measures mentioned above were suggested by EPCA member Sunita Narain in a meeting on the issue with Delhi’s Lt. governor Anil Baijal.
Baijal accepted that there was need for drastic measures in view of the prevailing air pollution emergency and has directed officials to immediately enforce them.
“In addition, it was agreed that a view would be taken tomorrow (Thursday) if there was a need to start the odd-even scheme. The transport department was instructed by the Lt. governor to stay prepared for such a direction," said an official statement.
On Tuesday evening, the air quality index of Delhi-NCR was at 480 (severe category). The average levels of the two deadliest air pollution components—particulate matter (PM) 10 and PM2.5—across Delhi NCR on Tuesday was 471 (nearly five times the limit) and 479 (nearly eight times the safe limit) respectively.
Similar conditions are expected on Thursday.
Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia announced that all schools in the national capital will remain closed till Sunday in view of the high levels of air pollution. On Tuesday, he had directed primary schools to stay shut on Wednesday.
The Union health ministry issued a health advisory asking people to remain indoors if they have breathing difficulty, and also try to keep children indoors as much as possible.
On Tuesday, EPCA had sought the closure of brick kilns and stone crushers, intensification of public transport services, increase in the frequency of Delhi Metro services, intensification of mechanized road sweeping and sprinkling of water, continuation of the ban on use of generator sets in Delhi, immediate enhancement of parking fees by four times, ban on use of coal and firewood in hotels and eateries.
The Delhi government also appealed to people to not burn dry leaves, crop residue, wood and coal, avail of carpools and public transport, avoid going outdoors early in the morning and late in the evening, avoid going to high pollution areas during peak hours, stay indoors as much as possible, take extra precautions for high risk groups like small children, elderly, pregnant women, and asthma patients.
Pretika Khanna contributed to this story.