Still at Odds and Evens with Reality
Pollution calls for a multi-pronged effort
Three months after the initial run, Delhi is embarking on another round of odd-even driving restrictions for private cars to improve the city’s air quality and reduce congestion. But the city remains as unprepared as before, because in the intervening period, the Delhi government has done little to expand or improve the public transport system.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s commitment to improving air quality is all about maximum publicity, minimum effect. It is focused on limiting the number of private cars plying, even though cars (including taxis) account for less than10% of the pollution. If the CM were serious about pollution, then he would have focused on soil, road dust, coal flyash, biomass and municipal solid waste burning, which are major sources of pollution. Even with its rather narrow focus, the Delhi government has been extremely cavalier in its approach to providing a viable alternative mode of transport, to enhance public transport and reduce dependence on private cars. A functional, predictable, integrated public transport system with efficient last-mile connectivity, and better road and traffic management to address congestion issues is what is needed. Air pollution is not restricted to city limits; so the Delhi government needs to work with neighbouring states, the central government, pollution control agencies, oil refineries that produce low-grade fuel, and local governments to address the root problem and pollution sources.
Global experience shows that driving curbs are a surge control instrument, and not the fulcrum of pollution control. The data from January bears this out — the city’s air quality showed scant improvement during the oddeven run. An effective solution requires a comprehensive policy package that includes congestion fees, expansion and integration of public transport, improved fuel quality, minimising sources of soil, road, and construction dust, no burning of municipal waste and biomass. It requires working with other agencies and governments. In their absence, what we have is a PR exercise.