They say, every major change faces a backlash from society, for we as a human are always reluctant to accept something new! This very fact came true when the current Chief Minister of Delhi announced a rather unconventional and a Draconian idea (as some are calling it) of road-rationing the number plates or in simple language, the Odd-Even number plate system. The rule aims to curb rising pollution and traffic situation in Delhi.
There are 2.7 million registered cars (as of March 2015) plying on the roads of Delhi with 1000 new cars adding to the load everyday on an average. Countries like China and Brazil have implemented the rule in the past and were successful in doing so. Will this be successful in India, and does government has thought it through to implement the process, we decided to do an in-depth analysis on the same!
What's the fuss all about?
Delhi Government, in light of the rising debate on pollution levels in Delhi, came out with a rule, that created an uproar among the citizens and media. The rule says -
1. From January 1st, 2016, cars on Delhi road will have to follow the even-odd number plate rule
2. According to the rule, cars with the Odd last digit will ply on odd numbered dates like 1,3,5 and so on
3. The cars with Even last digit will ply only on even dates like 2, 4,6 and so on
4. There's no ruling on Sunday, but chances are it will be open for all.
5. The rule is applicable only from 8am to 8pm
6. The government will assess the situation on 15th January, 2016
7. The rule applies only to private vehicles for now
8. Essential services like PCR vans, Ambulance and Fire Brigade will be kept out of the purview
9. Taxis and other public transportation will also be excluded
10. This rule will also be applicable to vehicles entering the U.T from other states.
What made the Government take such drastic step?
While we all know Delhi is under severe attack from pollution and many studies and reports have named the Indian capital as the worse capital in the world, let alone India, it was the recent outburst from the High Court that forced the Delhi Government to take such drastic steps. According to the Delhi High Court, living in Delhi is like "living in a gas chamber", and can cause severe damage to health.
According to reports, the NCR region, including Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad, Faridabad and Gurgaon has more cars than Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai combined. The main cause of pollution in Delhi is the growing number of cars, which is increasing at a tune of 1000 cars a day. A study done by the World Health Organization stated that Delhi is the worst city among 1600 cities tested globally in terms of pollution levels.
The Particulate Matter (PM) is worse among other form of toxic gases and coagulates during winters to cause much trouble in Delhi. On the higher sides, the PM 10 can reach around 800 µg/m3 (microgram per cubic meters) in Delhi, atleast 8 times more than the prescribed standards, which is around 100 µg/m3. The PM 2.5, which is much worse than PM 10 can reach 400 µg/m3, against the limits of 60 µg/m3.
ENT Doctors have proved time and again that these Particulate Matters are what affects the humans most. Countries like Beijing, who were more polluted than Delhi 5-7 years ago, took some drastic steps to curb the pollution, including the even-odd rule and currently, Beijing has a PM 10 level of only 150 µg/m3. London, on the other hand, has a maximum reach of 30 µg/m3 for both PM 10 and 2.5.
From where did the idea came from?
It's not like the CM of Delhi came up with a Eureka moment and implemented the idea. The same even-odd rule has been tried positively across the globe. Some of the countries where the rule was applied and showed extreme results are -
1. Beijing - Beijing has been the biggest influencer in the case of Delhi and the reasons are simple - Beijing has over 5 million vehicles on road and both the cities has identical population. During the 2008 Olympics, a system of road-rationing the licence plates was implemented in Beijing to check the rising pollution levels in the Chinese capital. Here's what happened after the system was introduced -
- The emission levels came down to 40 percent
- People loved the idea with over 95 percent of them supporting the restrictions
- For the first time ever in a long time, people were able to see a blue sky
- PM level dropped by 73.2% compared to the last year
2. Sao Paulo - The Brazilian financial capital is one of the most populated city in the world. They have this vehicle rotation system based on registration numbers active for over a decade now, leading to lesser pollution.
3. Oslo - Norway's capital Oslo, although has a very nice air quality, implemented such restrictions keeping the future in mind. And to take things to the next level, they are moving towards complete car ban by 2019!
4. London - Britain's capital implemented the vehicle exclusion rule during the 2012 Olympics to reduce the pollution and congestion.
So, the question here is, if the Latin American, Asian and European countries can implement the idea, why can't Delhi accept it?
What's so good about the rule?
1. For starters, it will help reduce the congestion from the choc-o-block traffic we face everyday
2. It will bring down the pollution level in the capital during peak hours
3. People will search for alternative methods for travelling like car pooling
4. The government will improve the public transport, which will be a boon in the long run
5. We can see the blue sky in the day and the stars in the night, a sight for rare eyes
6. Fuel usage will be reduced, and hence we will help in conserving the fossils
7. The noise pollution will also come down
8. Last but not the least, it's for 15 days and not lifetime.
What's not so good?
While we particularly can't point out any bad in the idea until it's tested practically, there're a couple of doubts we and all the citizens have in our minds-
1. If a person is travelling late in the night, chances are, he/she will be travelling after 11.59 pm too, which means he can fall victim of the odd-even rule
2. There's no clear strategy on how to decide if a traveler in a car is in emergency. What if he is a doctor going for an emergency situation?
3. Chances are that people will keep multiple number plates, taking the law in their hands
4. We still don't have a proper public transport in place. The Metro is already facing a lot of overload, while there's no space for more buses
5. Rich people have the capacity to buy two cars, one for each day
6. Chances are that bribery will increase among the police keeping a tab on the situation
7. Autos, taxis and other charter buses will fleece the commuters and charge extra
8. How can a police personnel keep a eye on all the cars for just the last digit?
How can we (citizens) help?
The main problem is with the mindset. Most of the Indians don't consider the public property as their own asset and leave it to the government. We are happy in our myopic world and private assets, a gate society with good home and a luxury car! But we have to realize, we don't have control on the nature, air being the prominent part of it.
As somebody rightfully said - "You can live for a few days without water and many days without food, but you can't live without air for a single moment" and we have to take this seriously. It's our collective responsibility to utilize the natural resources with intelligence and not negligence. The problem is, toxic air doesn't show an instantaneous ill-effect on our body and hence people don't understand.
We have to leave this cynical attitude behind and help ourselves and government tackle the pollution. And while our generation will somehow pass the catastrophic effects of the poisonous environment we are living in, it's the next generation who will have to face the repercussions of our ill-doing. Arvind Kejriwal is facing a wrath of political rivals, and criticism from the citizens alike.
The plan is to experiment with the idea for 15 days and check if it's viable or not. Nobody is forcing the ruling on us for lifetime. So what we can do? Sit tight and help our government reduce the pollution. Who knows, 10 years from now, countries across the globe live by the example set by Delhi. The Delhi government needs our support and cheers, not jeers.
What else do you need to know?
In addition to the Even-Odd rule, which made such deep crisis among the media and the citizens, the Government also took some other initiatives, a couple of them are-
1. The Delhi government will shut down Badarpur power plant, one of the coal-based plants
2. A web application will allow people to report about polluting vehicles
3. Vacuum cleaning to suck the dust out of roads will be undertaken soon
4. BSV emission norms to be implemented soon
5. Commercial vehicles to be restricted entering Delhi before 11PM.
We know that the citizens of Delhi have doubts and inhibitions which the Delhi Government need to clear first. The idea is to turn Delhi into a clean capital rather than turning the situation into a nightmare for the citizens. But it's also our responsibility to make changes in our attitude of not giving a damn to the environment. Remember this, the damages done to the environment are irreversible and we don’t change ourselves soon, it will be too late!
We will be keeping a keen eye on any development in this regard and help you understand the situation well. Keep a tab here for the proceedings!