NGT approves odd-even scheme; 2-Wheelers, govt servants, women not exempt
The National Green Tribunal, which earlier barred the Delhi Government from re-introducing the odd-even scheme, has given its approval to the Kejriwal-led government to implement the traffic restrictions. The green court stressed that two-wheelers, women, and government servants wouldn't be exempted from the scheme this time. It also added the odd-even scheme should be implemented whenever PM10 goes beyond 300 and PM2.5 crosses 500.
An initiative to minimize vehicular traffic, the odd-even scheme allows odd- and even-numbered vehicles to ply on alternate days. Delhi's decision was inspired by Beijing's successful implementation of the scheme ahead of the 2008 Summer Olympics. The last two times it was carried out for 15 days from 8am to 8pm except on Sundays. Though violators were charged Rs. 2,000, no vehicles were impounded.
On 9 November, Delhi Government announced that due to the declining air quality, the odd-even traffic restrictions would be imposed from 13-17 November. But NGT put the scheme on hold and said that it cannot be implemented without its permission. The green court said while there were several measures to tackle air pollution, the government decided on odd-even without even justifying its effectiveness.
During a special hearing on odd-even scheme's effectiveness, NGT noted there was an "absolute non-cooperation" between the government's departments. It said traffic police should be deployed at traffic signals as old vehicles can be seen most of the main roads. NGT also reprimanded DTC Chairman-cum-Managing Director saying it was "unfortunate" that the transport operator didn't read previous judgments about odd-even the scheme.
Before approving the odd-even traffic restrictions, NGT also questioned the Delhi Government's logic in exempting two-wheelers, which also emanate pollutants, from the scheme. The green court also asked whether the Delhi Government intends to impose the odd-even rule whenever air pollution reaches severe levels. However, the AAP Government said that it couldn't decide on it as of now.
The NGT asked Delhi Government's rationale behind implementing the odd-even scheme and also questioned why it did not impose the traffic restrictions when the pollution was worse. It also asked why artificial rains were not triggered when statistics suggested that rains would lead to a decrease in air pollution levels. Earlier, it questioned why the government was implementing odd-even only for five days.
Meanwhile, cab operators in Delhi have accepted the AAP Government's request to suspend surge pricing in order to implement odd-even scheme successfully. Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot held a meeting regarding the matter with the cab service providers in the city. Uber, Ola, and Wagon Cab announced that they wouldn't levy surge pricing during the odd-even days - from 13-17 November.
Ola stated: "We have suspended peak pricing in Delhi. We are slashing prices on Ola Share (facility that allows travelers to save cost by sharing ride with other Ola users), to be made available starting Rs. 35, to encourage adoption of shared rides."
Environment Pollution Control Authority, a body appointed by the Supreme Court to look into the matter, has declared that it wouldn't hesitate to go all out to address Delhi's alarmingly high air pollution levels. After shutting the Badarpur thermal power plant and banning generators, EPCA is prepared to implement the odd-even plan, take cars off roads, or shut schools if need be.