NEW DELHI: India’s national capital Delhi on Monday launched a car rationing system amidst menacing increase in the air pollution in the city. Under this system known as odd and even plan- a vehicle, depending on odd and even number plate, will run on the road on every alternate day . On Monday only those motors were allowed which had even number plate. Delhi has more than 6 million private vehicles and rationing system reduces vehicular traffic by more than 30% .
This system will remain in force till November 14.
Supreme Court however was not impressed with the steps the government has taken in addressing the worst pollution problem affecting around 40 million people living in Delhi and the National Capital Region(NCR).On Monday it came down heavily on the centre and the local government for not doing enough to address the issue of pollution which is affecting “the fundamental right to life”.
"The time has come to fix responsibility for the situation that is destroying the Right to Life of citizens in gross violation of Article 21 of the constitution. Everybody has to be answerable”, said the highest court in a hearing.
The apex court questioned the efficacy of the car rationing and asked whether such rationing in past has yielded any result.
“What are you achieving by odd and even?”, questioned the court.
The court ordered to stop all construction and demolition activities in Delhi and adjoining areas and fixed a fine of $1350 for any burning of garbage.
It asked the neighbouring states of Panjab and Haryana to stop the burning of crop stubbles which many environmentalist believes is one of the main reasons for the deteriorating air quality in the national capital region.
"Stubble burning must stop. Both Centre and the state must do this. People are dying. The sad thing is that everyone in this country is interested in gimmicks," the court said while hearing a petition from the pollution control body Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA).
On Monday according to Delhi based US Embassy the levels of particulates measuring less than 2.5 microns -
PM 2.5 were 613 micrograms per cubic metre of air which is way above the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommended safe daily maximum of 25. The tiny particulars enter the respiratory system and cause long term problem to the health.
At several places in Delhi the Air Quality Index (AQI) reached 900 mark on Monday mark which is considered to be hazardous. By evening it was hovering around 289 which is also described as “ highly unhealthy”.
Generally an AQI level between 0 to 50 is considered good.
Most of the schools in Delhi and adjoining areas are closed till Tuesday. Some 5 million masks have been distributed in schools to protect the students.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution.
Medical practitioners in Delhi say that
“air pollution at this level poses serious risk to the respiratory systems of the general population”.
In the last three weeks, the number of patients visiting with respiratory problem has seen a sizable jump due to the deteriorating air quality”, says Dr Loveleen Mangla, a leading pulmonologist in the Metro Hospital and Cancer Institute, Noida, a suburb of Delhi.
“ It’s not that the people with chronic respiratory problems are coming to me those who have no history of lung problems are also visiting me now and most of them are young”, Mangla tells Arab News.
He adds that “if the pollution is not controlled then pregnant women also face the risk of passing on respiratory problem to the foetus. So the problem can become chronic”.
“ I ask my patients to remain inside most of the time and avoid exposure outside”, he says.
Environmentalist V Selvarajan and founder of Green Circle, an NGO working in the area of air pollution, says that “ car rationing system is a good move but this cannot solve the problem”.
“ I don’t blame stubble burning for this crisis. Environment has not got any territory. The problem is affecting the whole of North India. We should have a comprehensive plan and address the issue in its entirety , says Selvarajan.
“Vehicular traffic is too much in Delhi. The capital city has more vehicles than all the three metro cities in India combined together. Naturally the pollution would be higher and we need to regulate that”, adds the environmentalist.
He tells Arab News that “people should change their mindset and start using public transport more”.