Delhi-NCR pollution crisis

Delhi-NCR pollution: Odd-even car scheme starts today

November 4, 2019

As pollution levels reached apocalyptic levels on Friday with nearly 44% of the capital’s PM 2.5 load coming from stubble burning emission in the neighbouring states, the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority declared a public health emergency in Delhi-NCR and banned all construction activity till November 5.

In the wake of the pressing situation, the Delhi government on Friday decided to shut all schools till November 5 after the Supreme Court’s order. As the blanket of smog and haze thickened, the pollution levels in Delhi increased overnight by around 50 points, taking the overall air quality index to 459, which comes under a severe plus category. According to official data, the overall AQI was 582 at 12.30 am. 

In the last week, the number of masked faces has grown in Delhi as the city remained shrouded in a pungent haze for the fourth consecutive day. If the air quality persists in the “severe-plus” category for more than 48 hours, emergency measures such as odd-even car rationing scheme, banning entry of trucks will be taken under the Graded Response Action Plan, the official said. 

The pollution authority has also banned the bursting of crackers during the winter season. According to experts, the PM 2.5 pollutants are so small and toxic that they beat the body’s defences and settle deep into lungs from where they spread to the bloodstream and other organs causing inflammation and are linked to asthmatic attacks, strokes, heart attacks, even dementia.

What is Odd-Even car scheme?

A car rationing system where vehicles running with number plates ending with even numbers like 0, 2, 4, 6, 8 will be allowed to run on even dates, while those with number plates ending with odd numbers like 1,3,5,7, 9 will be allowed to run on odd dates. Delhi government has exempted women from this rule stating, “Women driving alone, cars having all women as occupants and women accompanied by children aged less than 12 years” will be exempted.

The rule has been applied to curb pollution by cars, which adds to the drastic condition of the state. The Odd-Even car scheme, which kickstarted today, November 4, will continue till November 15 and will be applicable from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m, except for Sundays.

Meanwhile, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal called the city a “gas chamber” and blamed stubble burning for worsening the air quality. He asked the school kids to write letters to Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar and Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh asking them to take concrete steps against stubble burning.

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The hazardous pollution levels forced a number of people to miss morning walks and other activities. Aditya Rangroo, a Delhi-based journalist, said the pollution levels gave him inflammatory itchiness and that he had to skip his daily sports session. Rangroo is a resident of Sarita Vihar and said his family has been avoiding stepping out during morning and evening times.

Mahira Khan, a college student at the Delhi University complaints that his family is severely affected by pollution and having difficulty in breathing normally. “People in my family are taking steam to keep congestion at bay. The government has kept the schools shut till November 5, but they are no concern for us college-goers.”

According to a survey, in India, 136 deaths every hour are linked to air pollution. India’s annual PM 2.5 level in 2018 was 115 micrograms/cubic meter, according to a recent government note, which is 11.5 times higher than the WHO’s safe limit.

Manoj Joshi

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