Delhi calls off odd-even after NGT refuses exemption to motorcyclists and women
Saturday, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) told the Arvind Kejriwal government that it was free to implement the odd-even scheme, but without any exemption.
Had the scheme been implemented, Delhiites would have been able to take their cars only on alternate days. It was being invoked to tackle severe air pollution in the Capital.
When the scheme was implemented ealier, cars driven by women and two-wheelers were exempt.
This time, however, the NGT was ready to keep only emergency vehicles (ambulances, fire brigade vehicles, MCD garbage vans etc) out of the scheme's purview.
“The odd-even will go on. No exemption of any kind to any one including two-wheelers, women, public officers or politicians, except essential services. Odd-even will come in force by default in future in case Delhi's air gets severe,” NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
Kejriwal's government, however, insisted that the exempting motorcyclists and women drivers was necessary. It recognised that the state was not equipped to handle the increased dependency on public transport if exemptions are not made.
“Reducing pollution is important, but women's safety is paramount,” Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot said. “We will file a review petition for NGT to reconsider the decision.
“If 30 lakh two-wheelers are off the road, Delhi's public transport system cannot accommodate the surge,” he added.
The green tribunal had earlier asked the Delhi government their rationale behind applying the odd-even scheme and questioned as to why it wasn't introduced when air quality was worse earlier in the week.
The tribunal, which was hearing a plea on odd-even scheme for the second day today, even questioned whether the odd-even scheme was at the whim of a particular officer or the Delhi government as a whole.
The hearing bench also slammed the government since the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), submitted that they had warned the government orally in advance about the impending problem.
Earlier, the Delhi government had announced that the odd-even formula will be implemented in Delhi from November 13 to 17 as part of a Graded Response Plan to tackle the alarming pollution levels in the capital.
The green tribunal termed the plan a "farce" and asked the Kejriwal government to give an undertaking that it will roll out the scheme only when the particulate matter (PM) 2.5 was over 300.
The Bench said, "Odd-even formula can't be imposed like this. You can't have a shock treatment like this. By this scheme, you are only encouraging people to buy more vehicles and allowing more inter-state traffic. We will not allow odd-even vehicle rationalisation scheme until you prove that it's not counter-productive."
"You are getting the tag of the worst capital in the world. The Supreme Court and NGT have suggested 100 measures to curb pollution, but you always opt for odd-even. Nothing has been done by the Delhi government in the past one year," a Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
During the hearing, the Delhi government counsel told the Bench that they were introducing the odd-even scheme in pursuance to the directions of the apex court-appointed EPCA.
Meanwhile, the Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan said, “The situation in the capital is improving. I appeal to Delhi residents to not panic. Dust is not entering from other states and stubble burning has also come to an end.
“We have taken all people concerned on board, which includes chief ministers of neighbouring states. We (the Centre) can only help, Delhi government has to implement the reforms on the ground.
“I do not think that the odd-even plan is necessary. There are basic things in the Graded Rapid Action Plan (GRAP) that should be implemented first.”
The city has been experiencing 'dangerous' air quality and has been covered under a blanket of thick smog, as pollution levels breached permissible standards by multiple times
Edited by Joyjeet Das