Govt. yet to decide on exempting 2-wheelers from odd-even

File photo: A view of the massive traffic jam at ITO after the second phase of odd-even scheme, in New Delhi on Monday, May 2, 2016.

File photo: A view of the massive traffic jam at ITO after the second phase of odd-even scheme, in New Delhi on Monday, May 2, 2016.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

Given the current capacity of public transport, govt. may have no alternative other than exempting such vehicles, which account for 64.43% of its vehicular population

The fate of over 70 lakh two-wheelers, which constitute close to two-thirds of the Capital’s vehicular population, hangs in the balance as the Delhi government continues to deliberate on whether or not to exempt them from the provisions of the odd-even road rationing scheme, which is scheduled to come into force early next month.

Announced as part of a seven-point ‘Parali Pradushan’ Action Plan, the other aspects of the drive, which mainly seeks to combat the detrimental effect of stubble burning in neighbouring States on Delhi’s air quality, includes related measures.

These, according to the government, will consist of mass distribution of anti-pollution masks to citizens, mechanised sweeping and water sprinkling on roads, tree plantation and special measures to be put in place at 12 pollution hotspots in the city.

However, even as the Delhi government continues to work out the modalities of the scheme such as deciding on the quantum of fine for violators as well as putting arrangements in place to hire private buses to temporarily augment the public transport infrastructure in the Capital, experts expressed varying opinions in regard to its success.

Govt. yet to decide on exempting 2-wheelers from odd-even

As the road rationing measure returns to the Capital for the third time, government’s decision regarding two-wheelers, which were exempt from the provisions of the scheme during its past renditions in January and April 2016, according to experts, would have a significant impact on whether it would be able to fulfil its stated objective of improving the Delhi’s air quality.

Given the current capacity of its public transport infrastructure, the Delhi government may have no alternative other than exempting such vehicles, which according to the Economic Survey of Delhi 2018-19 account for 64.43% of its vehicular population compared to 29.55% constituted by four-wheelers, from the provisions of the road rationing measure.

Past lessons

A six-member panel formed by the Delhi government to evaluate odd-even II, which was enforced between April 15 and April 30, 2016, posited that the scheme was “largely successful” despite schools being open and the summer heat.

A report in this regard, which was released by the Delhi government in mid-May 2016, concluded that car owners voluntarily complied with the initiative between April 15 and 30. But the panel admitted that the weather and schools being open resulted in more number of vehicles on the roads.

According to the report, there was an additional volume of 3,88,886 cars, 1,34,598 two-wheelers and 8,000 buses on the roads than usual.

The report, however, said there was a minor decrease in the number of vehicles entering Delhi from Gurugram and Noida. As per data obtained from the DND flyway,16,224 cars entered Delhi from Uttar Pradesh on two days of the odd-even scheme between 8.30 a.m. and 10.30 a.m. After the drive ended, 18,071 cars entered Delhi on the same number of days.

Similarly on NH-8, which connects the Capital to Gurugram, 20,427 vehicles entered Delhi on one day of the scheme while 23,613 vehicles did so after odd-even.

Meanwhile, the Delhi government, in a recent statement, had said that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal believes that the measure was “a huge success” with some studies showing a 10-13% decrease in PM 2.5 concentration as a result of the road rationing scheme in January 2016.

Expert opinion

“When the odd-even policy was implemented last time, during the first week there was a reduction in air pollution. But during the second week, it increased. We later found that the air pollution increased due to farm fire in Punjab and also due to fire in Bhalswa landfill,” said Vivek Chattopadhyaya, Senior Programme Manager at Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi.

“There is no doubt that the pollution will decrease when vehicles go off the road, but it may not decrease the overall Air Quality Index (AQI), as the AQI is influenced by a lot of other factors which might have increased,” he added.

He said that the vehicle rationing scheme should be implemented for 24 hours instead of the current form of limited hours and should be done with very minimum exemptions. Commenting on the exemption for women drivers, the expert said, “There is no logic to give a gender-based exemption to women as they can also use public transport.”

Mr. Chattopadhyaya said that it will be difficult to impose odd-even scheme for two-wheelers as the public transport system of Delhi won’t be able to take the load.

According to Dr. S Velmurugan, head (traffic engineering and safety), Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), given the current carrying capacity of the city’s state-run transportation system, the Delhi government would do well to put two-wheelers on the list of exemptions.

“It will be a herculean task, in terms of manpower, to enforce the provisions of the scheme for two-wheelers given the sheer number of such vehicles registered in the Capital. Though the technology exists to remotely identify vehicles on the basis of their registration number plates through high-speed cameras, these are currently used on a handful of stretches and routes in Delhi,” he said.

“Whether it is because of enforcement issues or given the lack of capacity of public transport to accommodate them, the Delhi government does not have much of a choice in this respect and will most likely need to exempt two-wheelers,” he added.

Government speak

According to a senior Delhi government official, the government is currently engaged in multi-level discussions regarding the decision on exempting two-wheelers.

“Several departments, including Delhi Police, have been requested to share their views on the issue. We will take a call on it this week,” the official said.

In the previous edition of the scheme, all two-wheelers were exempted. According to the Delhi government, while this “significantly helped manage traffic” on the city’s public transportation system, some experts had expressed reservations against the exemption.

“The latest estimate of the number of two-wheelers that ply in Delhi is over 70 lakh. If two-wheelers are not exempted, it will lead to over 35 lakh people other than lakhs of pillion riders to switch to public transport every day,” the statement added.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 8:06:39 AM |

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