The Local Government has tried to take a proactive approach to reduce toxic air in Delhi by announcing an emergency car rationing plan.
In an experiment that was to only last 15 days, cars with odd-numbered plates could drive in Delhi roads on odd-numbered days and even-numbered cars on even days, as reported in the bbc.com.
Residents have often commented living in Delhi is like “being in a gas chamber”. However, local residents who traditionally love their cars and have an “utter disdain for traffic regulations” have made complaints and called for exemptions.
Many residents pointed out that Delhi has too little public transport for the plan to succeed. There are fewer than 5,000 buses for a population of more than 16 million people. London, with half that population, has twice as many buses, according to the bbc.com.
Leading up to the experiment schools were ordered to remain shut for an extra week and scooters and motorbikes were exempted. A strange move considering they contribute significantly to Delhi’s air pollution.
On the first day of the experiment Delhi-ites must have taken notice of the new plan as only cars with odd-numbered plates were seen on the six-lane road that encircles the city, while residents shared tips on how to carpool or to avoid journeys altogether. Suddenly a trip across town took 20 minutes rather than the usual 80. Plus, residents were boarding the metro system and buses were more packed.
Whilst traffic congestion decreased, pollution levels remained the same. Albeit very high.
Delhi is not the only city where authorities are trying to battle pollution by restricting vehicle access into the city centres. Due to recent extended periods of no rain and wind, Rome and Milan have also introduced either total bans or alternate days based on the odds/evens number plates and providing discounted public transport. Read more about this case study here.
But can traffic congestion be the only factor contributing to Delhi’s high pollution levels? Whilst the poor continue to burn rubbish to stay warm and cheap coal and diesel is continually used across India the air will be full of sulphur dioxide, ash and fine toxic particles. Meanwhile, in the small Italian town of San Vitaliano, the mayor banned the use of wood fired ovens until next March to huge protests from pizza restaurants, bakers and their customers.
In the large cities in India there is more than just traffic congestion to consider, until the complicated issues surrounding urban planning such as insufficient public transport, access to schools and affordable housing, cars will remain central to the life of people living in Delhi.
On a positive note it was a relief for the Government to realise that locals can be influenced to change their habits and make Delhi a place to live and breathe.