The agency responsible for monitoring the National Capital Region’s emergency pollution-control plan did not order the implementation of the odd-even car rationing scheme in Delhi, which the AAP government announced on Thursday.
While announcing the car rationing measure from November 13 to 17, Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot said the odd-even decision was as per the Graded Response Action Plan, which is monitored by the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA). However, a task force meant to assist the EPCA met on Thursday to review the air quality and did not order any additional measures, including odd-even, as per the minutes of the meeting.
The task force, which includes members from the Central Pollution Control Board and State pollution control boards of the NCR, said the levels of PM10 and PM2.5 remained over 500 and 300 micrograms per cubic metre for 52 hours and 53 hours respectively. This meant that the AQI was in the “severe+” category for more than 48 hours, which mandates the implementation of Odd-Even as per the plan.
However, the task force did not recommend that, saying that the Indian Meteorological Department had forecast the weakening of the anticyclone over Delhi, reduction in moisture and reduction of AQI to “very poor” from Saturday, as per the minutes of the meeting.
Anumita Roychowdhury, an executive director of the Centre for Science and Environment, also said that the EPCA did not issue any orders on Thursday.
“This [odd-even] is a decision they [Delhi government] have taken separately,” she said, adding that since there was a crisis situation, reduction in emissions was needed.
Though the severe levels of pollution, which started on Tuesday, are forecast to reduce over the weekend, the concentration of particulate matter would still be several times over the standards next week, when Odd-Even is implemented.
Sunil Dahiya, a campaigner with Greenpeace, said though Odd-Even was a good idea, there was a need to address other sources of pollution, including industries, thermal power plants, construction and biomass burning in the region.
“We should not repeat the mistake of leaving the big polluters i.e., thermal power plants in larger regions around Delhi and all other sources out of our list to act in a systematic and coordinated way this time, if we really want to see effective improvement in air quality,” he said.
Sumit Sharma, an associate director of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), questioned the potential impact of the policy. “Odd-even has limited potential for reducing pollution in Delhi. As per TERI estimates, it led to reduction of 4-7% last year. We recommended its use for limited period only during air quality emergency conditions. Exemptions given in the scheme could further reduce its effectiveness,” he said.