Odd-even scheme: It is getting increasingly difficult to make sense of what is going on when it comes to the capital’s anti-pollution drive. The Supreme Court has tried to reduce the number of entry points for trucks coming into the capital and the central government has increased the pollution tax on them—both presumably because the IIT-Kanpur study on pollution has pointed to trucks being the largest polluters in the automobile segment; indeed, newspaper reports regularly cite numbers to show how the policy is succeeding in reducing the number of trucks entering the capital. The Delhi government, similarly, has promised to plant grass in unpaved areas and to start vacuum-cleaning the capital’s roads presumably because the same report says road dust contributes to 56% of the capital’s pollution in terms of PM10. Restrictions have also been put on construction activities since this contributes to 14% of the PM10 pollution. Yet, Delhi’s chief minister has announced that he will restart his odd-even scheme in the next fortnight and the Supreme Court has just extended the ban on new registrations of diesel vehicles which have an engine capacity of more than 2,000cc. But anyone who has read the report knows this is getting the wrong end of the stick—if the report is considered junk, why doesn’t either the Delhi government or the SC say it is, and commission another study which has more credibility? For one, vehicles account for 9% of Delhi’s PM10 pollution and 20% of the more dangerous PM2.5 pollution—but within this, trucks account for 46% of the pollution, 2-wheelers 33% and 4-wheelers just 10%.
Logically then, the odd-even drive when applied to 4-wheelers can only cut 1% of Delhi’s PM2.5 pollution, which is why there was no discernible drop in pollution levels during the last odd-even drive. Similarly, even if you want to ban diesel engines—by the way, think of the polluting gensets in houses and marriages—it makes more sense to ban smaller cars since 70-80% of Delhi’s diesel cars are in the sub-1,300cc range. It is also true that emission norms vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so rather than banning vehicles with more than a certain engine capacity, set a level of particulate emission beyond which new cars can’t be registered. Also, since PM norms are lower for newer diesel cars—they were reduced from 80mg in BS-I diesel cars to 25mg in BS-IV and will fall to 4.5mg when BS-V is introduced—it makes more sense to concentrate on phasing out the older vehicles instead of banning less-polluting new cars. Of Delhi’s stock of cars and utility vehicles, for instance, just 1.8 lakh were sold in FY15 as compared to the stock of 26 lakh till April 2014. Hopefully, by the time the case is fully heard, there will be clarity on the real causes of pollution instead of the rampant populism being dished out today.