ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Taking Cars Off the Road

Delhi's proposal to take cars off the road may only be a band-aid, but it must be allowed to work.

In early December, Delhi’s High Court first took matters into hand. It described Delhi as a “gas chamber” and asked the city’s government to submit time-bound plans on managing pollution by 21 December 2015. Road space rationing is one of the responses of the Delhi government to the court’s injunctions. The Government of Delhi’s proposal to have vehicles (cars and two-wheelers) with odd/even numbers run on alternate days has been greeted with a volley of criticism on the airwaves, in social media and in print expressed by those who depend on personal transport, not by those who live and work in the open in the gas chamber.

While Delhi’s roads teem with cars, a fetid smog hangs almost permanently over its air, especially in the winters. The recently instituted National Air Quality Index has reserved its worst for Delhi’s air, which it ranks as “severe” on most days and “very poor” on others. According to the index, Delhi’s air was “severe” on 20 days in November with PM 2.5 levels going above 500 microgram/cubic metre. The World Health Organization (WHO) has set 25 microgram/cubic metre as a safe standard for these extremely fine particles that issue from the tail pipes of vehicles, especially those that run on diesel and from other operations that involve burning fuel. India’s Central Pollution Control Board has a far lenient standard of 60 microgram/cubic metre. On most days, PM 2.5 in Delhi’s air is six times more than even this relaxed standard.

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