|A New Delhi traffic policeman wearing an air pollution mask. Photo credit: Reuters / Adnan Abidi / Files.|
By Anders Lorenzen
Last year in order to combat air pollution, Paris, the capital of France adopted an innovative regulation system. It would ban cars with even number plates on one day and then move on to cars with uneven number plates the next day.
Now one of the world’s megacities, India’s New Delhi, which in recent years has adopted an unwelcome title; the world’s most polluted city, will adopt the same system as Paris from April 15th. However, instead of just adopting it until the worst of the pollution clears, the authorities in the city plan to run it for two weeks every month and could even make it a permanent feature each month. New Delhi trialled the system last month and successfully took a million cars off the road each day during this trial.
New Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal hinted it could be a permanent fixture when he announced the plans earlier this month stating: “We are seriously considering if we can do this for 15 days every month”.
There are currently 8.5 million vehicles on the streets of New Delhi and this new measure would affect around 2.6 million cars.
Air pollution has become a serious issue in New Delhi in recent years and according to Kejriwal, his plans enjoy broad public support: “A survey showed about four-fifths of respondents supported the plans, with most respondents opposed to waivers for groups such as ministers”, he stated. Doctors in the megacity say that if status quo remains Delhi’s 16 million residents are at risk of suffering irreversible lung damage and that some children are already impacted as they have the lungs of chain smokers
While the initiative is welcomed, it has been argued that much more must be done. Critics have pointed out that only 2.6 million of New Delhi 8.5 million cars are being targeted. This is due to the fact that women, politicians, judges, police and motorbikes were exempt from the rules. Officials say they would be looking to lift some of the exemptions but say that women, when alone, due to security reasons will still be exempt. India has been battling with women’s safety issues as some very disturbing rape incidents have been reported with some of those cases being reported when women have been travelling alone on public transport.
While the primary effect of tackling air pollution issues is to protect people’s health, it will also achieve the added benefits of tackling climate change, as taking more cars off the road and a switch to cleaner transport methods would not only make the air cleaner, but also reduce CO2 emissions.