Odd-Even Rule Is Back! How Else Is Delhi Trying To Clear The Lingering Smog?
The national capital is experiencing 'severe' air quality under a blanket of thick haze, as pollution levels have breached the permissible standards by multiple times. After killer small particles joined together to form a thick layer of smog over Delhi at the outset of winters, authorities have swung to actions.
Here is what they are doing to clear the smog off the Delhi skies:
Odd-even rule is back
The odd-even car rationing scheme would be enforced in Delhi for a five-day period from November 13, city Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot said on Thursday. The decision comes as air pollution levels spiked in the national capital. Under the policy, private vehicles are allowed to run based on the last number of their licence plates. Odd-numbered cars are allowed to run on odd dates while even-numbered cars can only run on even dates.
In 2016, the scheme was enforced twice ─ January 1-15 and April 15-30.
NGT bans construction, waste burning in Delhi
The National Green Tribunal on November 9 issued a slew of directions to deal with the situation, including banning construction and industrial activities and entry of trucks, while lambasting the Delhi government and civic bodies over the worsening air quality in Delhi and neighbouring states.
"No construction activity will be carried out on structures until further orders... all industrial activities in Delhi-NCR which are causing emmissions will also not be allowed to carry on their functioning" till November 14, a Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
An irked green panel also imposed a ban on the entry of diesel trucks more than ten years old and said that no vehicle from outside or within Delhi will be permitted to transport any construction material.
The tribunal told the authorities that holding meetings, writing letters and shifting responsibility from one to the other for non-performance can hardly be made an excuse for meeting "such a bad environmental emergency".
Noting flagrant violation of the prescribed limits of PM (particulate matter) 10 and PM 2.5, it banned construction and industrial activities causing emmissions till November 14.
"You (officials) go to the hospital and see what kind of trouble people are facing. You kept playing with people's life. Right to life has been infringed with impunity by the authorities and other stakeholders who have been mere spectators to such crisis," the Bench said.
The NGT also directed the authorities and the civic bodies to sprinkle water where PM 10 is found to be in excess of 600 micrograms per cubic metre. It further directed the authorities to implement EPCA's directions to improve ambient air quality while asking the civic bodies to constitute teams to ensure there is no burning of waste in Delhi-NCR.
HC issues emergency directions
The Delhi High Court on November 9 issued a slew of directions to improve air quality, including watering of the roads to minimise dust.
Calling it an "emergency situation", a Bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sanjeev Sachdeva asked the Delhi government to consider the option of "cloud seeding" to induce rainfall artificially, as an immediate step to bring down the dust and particulate matter in the atmosphere. It directed the Delhi government to seriously consider a ban on further construction in the city to the extent possible and implementing the odd-even vehicle usage scheme as a short-term measure.
"What we are facing today has already been faced by London. They call it a pea soup fog. It is a killer. Stubble burning is the visible villain in it, but there are other elephants in the room," the Bench said.
It said the fog here was a "deadly mixture of vehicular pollution, construction and road dust and stubble burning."
Directions were also issued by the Bench to the Delhi Traffic Police to ensure there is no vehicular congestion on the roads and provide masks to the personnel on duty.
The Bench also ordered the Union Environment Secretary to hold a meeting in the next three days of the chief secretaries of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to work out a joint short-term plan to bring down air pollution.
NHRC issues notices to Centre, states on toxic haze
On the same day, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) sent notices to the Centre and governments of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana in view of "life-threatening" pollution levels in the Delhi-NCR region.
The commission also criticised authorities for not taking proper steps to tackle the "hazard", amounting to violation of right to life and health.
The rights panel sought reports within two weeks from different Union ministries and the three governments on "effective steps" being taken and proposed to tackle the situation.
"The state cannot leave its citizens to die due to the toxic haze," it said in a statement.
"It is apparent that the authorities concerned have not taken proper steps throughout the year to tackle this hazard, which is amounting to violation of the right to life and health of the residents in the region," the NHRC said.
Delhi Metro to run more trips
The Delhi Metro announced that its trains will undertake over 180 additional trips from November 9 and charge four times the prevalent parking rates to discourage use of private vehicles in the light of the alarming pollution levels in the city. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) will be running 3,317 train trips from today, instead of 3,131 — an increase of 186 train trips, to provide increased capacity to the public in this weather.
The Metro ran around 90 trips more after Lt Governor Anil Baijal approved the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority's orders announced recently. However, it was decided that the Metro will not have to slash commuting fares temporarily as it already has a differential pricing system for peak and off-peak hours for smart card users in place.
The number of trips will remain unchanged on the Red Line and the Airport Express Line. Besides, deployment of additional ticketing operators, customer facilitation agents and CISF personnel has been done to facilitate the passengers and their speedy frisking. The augmented services would be in effect till further notice, the DMRC said.
It will effectively lead to 701 daily trips on the Yellow Line against the prevailing 679; 772 trips on the Blue Line as against 752; 546 trips on the Green Line as against 438; and 588 trips on the Violet Line against the current figure of 552.
With inputs from Housing News