How Beijing & Paris can help Delhi fine-tune pollution fight
Both Have Used Odd-Even Scheme To Decongest Roads
New Delhi: In expectation of high pollutions days from November 4 to 15, Delhi government has announced oddeven road rationing for this period. The measure has been tried out in 2016 on two occasions, and its impact on pollution is still to be fully determined. That is where perhaps the experience in cities like Beijing and Paris can be a model for Delhi in its effort to make vehicular restrictions count.
Beijing implemented the policy during the Olympic and Paralympics Games in 2008. In 2013, it formulated emergency response programme for air pollution and stipulated the use of the road on alternate days by vehicles whenever a red alert was issued. Beijing put the oddeven scheme in operation in 2014 to cope with the severe air pollution days. Other Chinese cities, such as Lanzhou and Jinan, also followed suit for a short period.
As in Delhi, the last number on the licence plate, odd or even, determined the day on which a vehicle is allowed on the road. But unlike in the Indian capital, where road rationing was enforced from 8am to 8pm in January 1-15 and April 15-30, 2016, Beijing enforces it through the 24-hour period.
According to a Centre for Science and Environment report, this move was expected to ease traffic, with a projected 35% drop in the number of private vehicles on the roads. It was also estimated that three million trips would be undertaken daily via public transport once the measure was implemented.
Paris too enforced the oddeven traffic measure in 2014 when the pollution reached dangerous levels. The CSE report says, “The restrictions apply in the city and 22 suburbs. There are exemptions for electric and hybrid cards, and any vehicle carrying three people or more. However, the motorcycles are subject to the odd-even rules.”
Importantly, Paris city officials made travel on public transport systems free for as long as the odd-even rule was in operation. During the road rationing exercise, drivers who defied the ban faced on-the-spot fines of ¤ 22 (around Rs 1,800) or ¤ 35 (Rs 2,850) if they paid within three days. The immediate impact was the halving of the usual number of traffic jams.
Since January 2017, Paris has also imposed restrictions on vehicles that can enter the city based on age and fuel on high pollution days.
Beijing and Paris show that exemptions from the scheme should be limited to essential and emergency vehicles. Violations should be deterred with penalties to effect better compliance.
The CSE reports also points out, “The duration of the ban — odd or even — extends to 24 hours, which makes it more effective and does not allow people to take cars before 8am (as was the case in Delhi). Availability of public transport is important as the scheme is operational as a car-restraint measure.” The report also advises that road rationing must be used as an emergency measure, and only during peak pollution days, to drive down pollution by taking a large numbers of vehicles off the roads.
It was erroneously mentioned in a page 1 story and the headline in the edition dated September 14 that CPCB had praised implementation of the odd-even scheme in Delhi. It was a former air lab chief of DPCC who had described it as a good move. This was mentioned correctly in another report carried inside. The error is regrettted.