Odd-even didn't help Earth Day, experts suggest alternatives

New Delhi: Both gaseous and particle pollutants violated the standards in Delhi on Saturday, while the condition was way too grim on Thursday which was International Mother Earth Day, experts say. According to the experts, the city government's reliance on curbing pollution in Delhi by controlling a mere five percent of private vehicles was a major reason behind the odd-even scheme not being a success. On Thursday, the particulate matter (PM) concentration recorded a new hike with PM10 (particles with diameter less than 10 micro metre) at 234 units and PM2.5 (particles with diameter less than 2.5 mm) was 93.2 units. The permissible limit for PM10 is 100 units and for PM2.5 is 60 units. "In Delhi and NCR, PM2.5 is violating the prescribed standards at most places. PM10 concentrations are violating the standards at all locations in Delhi," said a report by The Energy and Resources Institute. "Daily fluctuations observed in pollutant concentrations are caused due to meteorological variations, changing emissions during the weekdays, and background influences," the report added. The gaseous concentration (NO2) also increased drastically on Earth Day, with a spike at Punjabi Bagh, R.K. Puram and Anand Vihar areas. The data showed a slight drop on Friday, but kept violating the standards anyway. The PM10 was at 164.2 units and PM2.5 at 81.2 units. The NO2 average was 87.056 units, based on the data from five locations -- Anand Vihar, Mandir Marg, Punjabi Bagh, R.K. Puram and Civil Lines. The permissible limit for NO2 in 80 units. The unit of PM and NO2 is microgram per cubic metre. "Odd-even could only be an emergency step, it's not the only way. Air pollution is caused by numerous sources and not only vehicles. We check the 5 percent cars within Delhi but forget to curb the old buses and trucks which enter Delhi from other states on a daily basis," said Sumit Sharma, a fellow from TERI. "The government must draft a policy to prohibit trucks and buses from other states to enter Delhi, if they violate the pollution norms," he added. According to the reports, the air quality of Delhi also depend on the neighbouring states. The reasons vary from strong winds, open burning of agricultural fields to old vehicles entering the national capital. Environment experts also hold generator sets used across NCR, power plants running on coal as well as numerous exemptions given during the odd-even as the major reasons for the spike in pollution levels, both particulate and gaseous. "If someone tends to regulate an experiment like odd-even, the people negate it, they look for alternatives. There is a need to look into other schemes as well, like congestion pricing, promoting hybrid vehicles as CNG is not the final solution and others," said Sharma. "Instead of giving exemptions, why not charge a woman for the exemption that she enjoys during odd-even, and use that money to promote public transport," another environment expert said. Congestion pricing is a scheme where a person pays extra fee for using a less congested vehicle or simply driving a vehicle across a defined green area. The money is used to promote clean transport. "The scheme is a success in Singapore, Milan, London and Japan," said Sharma. As per environmentalists, the central government's plan of introducing cleaner fuel of EURO-6 standard by 2020, than EURO-4 which is being currently used, would prove to be a milestone to curb pollution. "This would be a wonderful step. However, it will only succeed when older vehicles are retrofitted with the parts to support the new fuel quality." "Besides that, the government must also look forward a policy for cleaner air, before that good quality fuel is introduced. We are looking at four years, there's a solution required till then," Sharma said. IANS