Swaraj Abhiyan welcomes, in principle, the move to address air pollution in Delhi by curbing the number of private four-wheelers on the road. The rationale is very simple. Level of air pollution is Delhi is dangerously high, one of the highest across cities across the world.
Vehicular pollution contributes nearly 60% to air pollution in the city. Delhi has more private vehicles than Mumbai, Kolkatta and Chennai put together. There is thus an urgent need to control the menace of the growing number of private vehicles in order to ensure better health for its citizen and secure the future of the generations to come. Any step in that direction must be welcome by all, irrespective of political differences.
Odd-Even scheme announced by the Delhi Government is one possible way to realise this objective. Although the scheme was announced as a knee-jerk reaction to an emergency, and that too on prodding from court, it should not be dismissed out of hand. All depends on how the scheme is designed, supported and executed.
We do hope that the the government would not repeat the manner in which it scrapped BRT and listen to environment and public transport experts, carry out public consultations and announce clear deliverables in terms of quantifiable reduction in pollution levels before finalising the modalities of this scheme.
Any such policy cannot be more than a small piece in a comprehensive attempt at pollution control. There is no silver bullet for pollution control as it is a function of the numbers, mix and health of the vehicles on the road, fuel quality and mix, roads conditions, traffic management, driver capabilities and attitudes.
Reduction in private vehicles must be rapidly and resolutely accompanied by a corresponding increase in availability and quality of public transport. In this respect Delhi faces a grim situation: existing public transport is bursting at its seams with steady deterioration and little scope for sudden expansion..
The availability of safe and reliable autos, taxis or other means of last mile connectivity must also improve substantially. This needs to be supplemented by move towards advanced pollution standards, incentivising non-polluting fuels and vehicles, opening the city for non-motorised transport and making roads safe for pedestrians. In the absence of these changes, sudden curb on private vehicles is known to have resulted in vehicle substitutes that are even more polluting.
Above all, implementing any measure of pollution control requires political will, ability to develop a broad consensus across various segments of citizens and effective coordination among all branches and levels of government. Any failure in this respect would not only let the people of Delhi down, it could also bring bad name to environmental policies. Therefore Odd-Even scheme is a test of this government’s political will and its administrative skills. We sincerely hope that the AAP government succeeds in this challenge of bringing down pollution levels in the city.
Yogendra Yadav is former AAP leader and a founder of Swaraj Abhiyan