In a proactive move to alleviate the perilous smog engulfing the sprawling metropolis of New Delhi, authorities have unveiled a week-long plan to curtail private vehicle usage. The national capital, home to a staggering 30 million residents, grapples with an annual winter smog crisis, primarily attributed to the practice of stubble burning by farmers in neighboring agrarian states.
New Delhi perennially ranks amongst the most polluted cities on Earth, with its noxious smog held responsible for hundreds of thousands of untimely deaths annually. Despite sustained government initiatives, the battle against India’s enduring air quality predicament, which a 2017 US study pinpointed as the cause of one million premature deaths each year, remains unwon.
Gopal Rai, the Minister of Environment in Delhi, has confirmed the implementation of a road-rationing strategy, scheduled to commence a week from the upcoming Monday, right after the celebration of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, characterized by the detonation of firecrackers.
Under the proposed scheme, vehicles sporting license plates with odd and even numbers will be permitted to ply the roads on alternate days throughout this critical period. Rai elucidated, “The decision has been made due to the anticipated spike in pollution post-Diwali.” The effectiveness of this endeavor will be assessed following the 20th of November.
As of Monday, the levels of the hazardous PM2.5 particles, minuscule enough to infiltrate the bloodstream, surged to 184 micrograms per cubic meter, a staggering 12 times the World Health Organization’s recommended daily maximum.
Nevertheless, amidst this dire backdrop, cricketers from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka courageously took to the field for a World Cup match in the afternoon.
This is not the inaugural execution of the road restriction scheme in the capital; it was previously instituted in 2016, 2017, and 2019. Although vehicular emissions constitute a significant proportion of Delhi’s air pollution, a 2018 study conducted by Indian government scientists raised doubts regarding the efficacy of the odd-even rule, suggesting it may not have succeeded in reducing emissions and, in some cases, might have exacerbated the situation due to disruptions in normal traffic patterns.
Rai also declared the closure of schools in the city until November 11, accompanied by a ban on construction activities as part of the multifaceted efforts to mitigate the looming environmental crisis.