Wake-up Delhi! Two weeks of odd-even formula may not give you clean air
GoBarefoot: As Delhi gets ready to start week two of the second round of the odd-even scheme, many debate if it is a viable solution to combat the high levels of air pollution in the city.
From the point of view of a commuter, it is an inconvenient idea that causes more trouble than lure you with the benefits of breathing clean air. But taking into account the long-term benefits, we give in.
What is the odd-even formula?
Owing to the air pollution levels crossing the danger mark in 2015, the Delhi government proposed the odd-even scheme wherein all private vehicles with odd numbered license plates would be allowed to ply on odd-numbered days and cars with even numbered license plates would be allowed on even numbered days.
The first round of the scheme was put in action from January 1-15, 2016. The experiment produced mixed results from various sources ranging from a drop to a hike in pollution levels.
From April 15-30, 2016, the second round is operational. The result will give the concerned authorities, a comparative analysis about the effectiveness of the scheme and subsequently its continuance.
However, compared to the first time, the second round is proving to be a challenge for commuters because of factors like:
- Lack of visible pollution: During the winter months, pollutants get suspended in the air as smog (smoke + fog) and are visible to the naked eye. This had created a sense of fear among people forcing them to take active part in the scheme. However, in summers, though the respiratory problems persist, one can’t see the pollutants in the air resulting in a laid-back approach.
- Heat: The sweltering heat in the Capital makes it difficult for citizens to opt for eco-friendly options like cycling, walking, or taking public transport.
- Schools are open: Unlike in January, schools are open this time and it has become difficult for parents to pick/drop their children. Also, the buses that the government employed for public transport then are now being used by schools, thereby reducing their numbers.
Despite the inconvenience, the scheme was hailed a success during the January trial because the number of vehicles on the road reduced in number. However, reports say that while the pollution levels may have dropped, it wasn’t enough to create a significant impact to be continued full-time. This verdict shouldn’t come as a surprise since vehicular pollution isn’t the only contributor to Delhi’s foul air. It is just one of many.
Oxford defines pollution as “the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance which has harmful or poisonous effects”.
“Air pollution is caused by dust particles, suspended in the air, with the potential to cause breathing problems, that may aggravate to lung cancer and cause deaths, in people of all age groups,” says Dr. Priyanka Kulshreshtha, assistant professor for Environment Management and Sustainable Development at Lady Irwin College.
“Construction activities play a significant role in increasing pollution levels,” she says.
A simple way of reducing dust generation during construction is by using a mixture of cement and fly ash, pre-fabricated, and sustainable housing material. Usage of such materials that help curb suspension of dust in the air should be encouraged.
According to a media story, in January 2015, the Union ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) informed that Delhi’s air pollution was mostly because of dust from roads and construction activities, a claim contested by pollution-control experts.
Dr. Kulshreshtha also suggests opting for green pavements wherein grass grows in the crevice between stones. This will not only increase green cover but also result in grass catching dust and preventing its suspension in the air.
The odd-even scheme alone isn’t the sole solution. Pollution from industries and power plants, burning of trash, and agricultural waste from areas surrounding the Capital also needs to be addressed.
While the future of the scheme hangs in the balance, the government can introduce methods that will encourage people to do their bit for the environment. Some of them can be:
- Improve public conveyance and last mile connectivity.
- Give incentives to use public transport or sustainable methods to reduce air pollution.
- Promote cycling.
- Get organizations to encourage employees to carpool.
- Plant as many trees as possible.
- Conduct awareness drives in schools, organisations, and industries.
- Stricter norms for checking vehicular pollution, especially in trucks.
“A good way to reduce vehicular pollution is through the introduction of battery-operated cars,” says Dr. Kulshreshtha.
“We should hope for a greener future where petrol pumps will be replaced by charging stations for battery-operated cars. These stations can harness solar energy to provide fuel for the cars,” she adds.
While environmentalists cry hoarse trying to come up with ways to reduce pollution levels, it is time WE wake up and deal with this emergency before it is too late.
Organisations that work on air pollution:
Centre for Science and Environment