Contemplating Delhi Government’s New Pollution Control Policy

It is no new information that the Capital region has been credited for being the most polluted one in India. Pollution level was realized to be at an all new high, when in a recent verdict, the Delhi High Court equated the environment of Delhi and the NCR, to that of a gas chamber. The National Air Quality Index, too, has been constantly showing the air quality in Delhi as being ‘very poor’, leaving the population here and the Authorities in a scary fit.

In order to tackle the rising level of pollution and the thickening blanket of smog, the Delhi State government has been trying to come up with various models of control. The latest one amongst these is the Road Space Rationing system, similar to the ones functioning in Beijing, Singapore and Central London.

What is the latest Model?

Once implemented, tentatively from 1st January 2016, private vehicles with even and odd license plates will be allowed to run on the roads on alternative dates. In addition, there are talks of shutting down the Badarpur Thermal Power Plant, curbing old vehicles and to allow diesel trucks entry into the city only after 11 PM. The policy finds a significant supporter in BJP’s Kiran Bedi who, however, acknowledges the challenges that the government would have to face while implementing it.

Problems that the system is facing:

Despite being a stringent effort in curbing the life-threatening pollution levels, the system has various limitations, such as it may lead to the further overcrowding of the already stuffed public transports. It would also restrict the movement of people in cases of emergency, for instance, increasing their dependence on the not-so-efficient Ambulances during severe medical emergencies or disabling women to drive to their homes in the safety of their own vehicles, late at night. Moreover, keeping a close track of the license plates by the traffic Police officials would end up slowing the traffic, causing people all the more inconvenience.

In Beijing, where the model was adopted in 2008, automatic traffic surveillance was carried out, along with relaxing vehicle taxes in order to compensate the people for a considerable period of time. No such proposal has been made by the authorities in Delhi yet.

Although a government official stated that there would be an increase in the number of public buses running on the road, it is hard to ascertain if the new numbers would be able to make up for the restricted means of conveyance. Moreover the government has failed to throw any light on the other above-mentioned issues that are of critical importance to the daily lives of Delhiites.

Response so far:

At the moment this system seems to be ‘not too much fuss’ for the affluent few who own more than two private vehicles. The authorities have enough examples of things-gone-wrong due to poor planning ahead of implementation (after all who can forget Delhi University’s FYUP fiasco!).

It is important to understand that the forth-coming imposition is a necessary step in the face of heaping amounts of pollution, an issue which concerns not just Delhi but the entire world. However, it is crucial that the policy is implemented not in a haste, but after quick and thorough planning, increasing efficiency of the concerned officials, with the capability to tackle majority of the problems that the government can be faced with.

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Radhika Sharma