• Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Pollution: New Delhi implements week-long vehicle ban

Delhi is blanketed in acrid smog at the onset of winter

By: Pramod Thomas

NEW DELHI will restrict the use of private vehicles for a week in a bid to offer residents some respite from the toxic smog choking the megacity, authorities announced Monday (6).

Delhi, home to 30 million people, is blanketed in acrid smog at the onset of winter every year, primarily blamed on stubble burning by farmers in the neighbouring agrarian states.

The city is regularly ranked as one of the most polluted on the planet, with its smog blamed for hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year.

So far, government-led efforts have failed to tackle the country’s air quality problem, which a 2017 US study found kills one million people prematurely in India every year.

Gopal Rai, Delhi’s environment minister, said the road-rationing scheme would be introduced for a week from next Monday, a day after Diwali — the Hindu festival of lights, when revellers set off firecrackers.

Under the scheme, cars with odd and even number plates would be allowed to travel on alternate days during the period.

“The decision has been taken as after Diwali, pollution may rise further,” Rai said at a press conference.

The situation would be reviewed after November 20, he added.

Levels of the most dangerous PM2.5 particles — so tiny they can enter the bloodstream — reached 184 micrograms per cubic metre on Monday according to IQAir, 12 times the daily maximum recommended by the World Health Organization.

Nonetheless, cricketers from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka took to the field for a World Cup match in the afternoon.

Some players and coaches from both teams trained with face masks on the eve of the match at the Arun Jaitley Stadium.

Earlier practice sessions were also cancelled while some Bangladesh players who have asthma were confined to their hotel.

Early in the Sri Lanka innings levels of the most dangerous PM2.5 particles — so tiny they can enter the bloodstream — stood at 184 micrograms per cubic metre according to IQAir, more than 12 times the daily maximum recommended by the World Health Organization.

It is not the first time the road restriction scheme has been tried in the capital — it was put into action in 2016, 2017 and 2019.

Vehicle emissions account for a significant proportion of air pollution in Delhi, but a 2018 study by Indian government scientists found that the odd-even rule did not succeed in reducing emissions — and may even have increased them due to disruption to normal traffic patterns.

Rai also said schools in the city will remain closed till November 11 and construction activities will be banned.

(AFP)

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