1147 GMT October 18, 2019
For two weeks from Friday, only alternate-day travel will be permitted between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. for private cars with odd- and even-numbered license plates, while thousands of trucks carrying commercial goods will be discouraged from driving through the city, the Guardian reported.
But the local government’s first major effort to clear Delhi’s air ―the most polluted in the world, according to the WHO in 2014 ― has been criticized by those who say sweeping exemptions render it inadequate.
The measure’s focus is on restricting passenger cars which, critics point out, account for only 10 percent of the air pollution. Moreover, 27 categories of motorists are exempt, including all female drivers, the prime minister, Narendra Modi, and his ministers.
Goods vehicles, which contribute 30 percent, will also be regulated. But more than five million motorcyclists have been spared, for fear their numbers would swamp the already over-burdened bus and metro system.
“This is just a beginning,” said Delhi’s state chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal. “We’ll have to undertake even sterner measures in the future to safeguard our health, and especially our children’s future. It has to become a movement.”
The most contested exemption is the one for female drivers, which officials say is to ensure women’s security. A court will now decide whether it is discriminatory to allow women to drive around Delhi while some of their male counterparts will be forced to leave their vehicles at home.
Though several factors have contributed to the dirtying of the city’s atmosphere, the authorities are focusing first on reducing car pollution, despite the fact that it has yielded mixed results when tested in other cities around the world.
While the Indian capital’s public transport system remains inadequate despite a new metro, there has been a surge in the number of private vehicles in recent years.
Many of the new cars and sports utility vehicles run on diesel, which is more polluting than petrol. A court has now banned the sale of big diesel cars for three months. There has also been a huge increase in the number of people commuting on motorbikes, which are responsible for nearly a third of the pollution.