Odd-even rule might not reduce air pollution but here’s how it’s making life easier

While previous data suggests that the odd-even rule may not have worked, there is still hope as the Delhi-NCR air pollution reaches a new level.

By: | Updated: November 6, 2019 11:17 AM

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The odd-even rule has started in Delhi again. The Delhi government has been implementing this since late 2015 and is claimed to reduce vehicular pollution and also congestion. This, in turn, will lead to lower traffic jams and theoretically at the same time, the air quality will improve too. However, many are against this rule too. The reasons are that it causes inconvenience and the main one is that pollution levels don't go down too. We got our hands on a study conducted by the IIT Kanpur on the impact that odd-even has on the vehicular pollution. This suggests some shocking and some obvious facts. Before we get into the details, let's understand what all encompasses the odd-even rule.

First up, the odd-even rule is applicable from November 4-15, between 8am - 8pm. Vehicles whose registration number ends with an even number (2,4,6...) can ply on 4,6,8 and so on. Whereas vehicle with a registration number that ends with an odd number (1,5,7,9...) can ply on these dates. This rule includes cars with a private registration plate and those running on petrol, diesel or any other bi-fuel. Electric cars do not fall under this purview. Exemptions include petrol/diesel/bi-fuel vehicles driven by female drivers with an all-girls crew or cars in which differently-abled people or children are travelling. There is also a huge list of government vehicles that are exempted from this rule. However, the vehicles of the Delhi CM and his other ministers are not exempted. Trucks as well as commercially registered cars or even two-, three-wheelers also do not come under this odd-even scheme.

Back to the study conducted by IIT Kanpur. They start off by saying that the government expects the pollution level to come down by 15 per cent. The study notes that vehicular pollution amounts to around 20 per cent. Cars contribute to just two per cent of this pollution. Dust is the major culprit as it accounts to a highly significant 38 per cent. Moreover, two-wheelers too are to be blamed as around 56 per cent of the pollution is caused by them. In all, the study says that pollutants emitted by cars are less than two per cent of the total pollution. By implementing odd-even, there will be an improvement in the air quality by just one per cent going by the data. It is more on the lines of reducing something from an extremely small chunk and claiming big results.

The study elaborates that ambient air quality is determined based on Air Quality index (AQI), which has been recently defined by Government of India. The AQI looks at measured values of various air pollutants, like PM10, PM 2.5, NOX, SO2, CO, NH3 and lead. The measured value of each pollutant is converted to a sub-index value and the highest value of any pollutant is taken as the AQI for that day. AQI has relation with the National Air Quality standard and has been classified from good to severe depending on the index value and is colour coded for easy understanding.

In order to understand Delhi air quality, as per data from Central Pollution Control Board, PM 2.5 has the highest sub-index value in the recent past. The effort then is to reduce PM 2.5.

In the table given below, studies from ARAI-TERI as well as IIT Kanpur suggest that industries contributed to 30 per cent PM 2.5 in 2016 while vehicles at a dangerously close 28 per cent. Depending on the age of the vehicle and emission norms that it adheres to, the pollution level varies. Biomass contributed to 14 per cent.

We spoke with Dr Ajay Mathur, Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), on this issue. He said that the spike in the Delhi air pollution was due to Diwali as well as stubble burning. Effectively, the government should either ban firecrackers all together in Delhi-NCR or crackdown on offenders. There should be other ways to ensure paddy isn't burnt and is instead monetised by utilising it for other energy resources. He also elaborated that the government is doing what it can to ensure vehicular pollution is being curbed. It is as it is too early to talk about the effect of odd-even as its been only two days since it has been implemented. A reduction, even a minor one, has a positive effect on the ecosystem.

ExpressDrives feels that on the face of it, the odd-even rule may seem a bit inconveniencing but then it has some minor indirect benefits too. It will encourage more car-pools, utilisation of public transport and if not pollution, reduce congestion to a great extent. Cab operators too have said that there will be no surge pricing during this period and the CM has also urged auto-rickshaw drivers to not overcharge customers. The implementation of the odd-even seems to be a positive step. Who knows, it might even compel a few people to opt for electric vehicles which will prove beneficial in the longer run.


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