ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Vehicular Pollution Mitigation Policies in Delhi

This article discusses how the perennial focus on policies to mitigate vehicular sources of air pollution in Delhi ignores a significant contribution by sectors other than transport. This works to the detriment of framing sustainable transport policies for the city. Such policies should not be dictated by the sole objective to reduce vehicular air pollution; that should rather be seen as a co-benefi t within the larger gains of accessible and safe transportation system.

Delhi is the most polluted city in the world, with annual average PM2.5 (particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 µm) concentrations reaching seven times higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline during 2012–14 (Goel et al 2015; WHO 2014). In the past year, in ­response to the growing public pressure and media campaigns, both central and state governments announced a slew of policy measures to improve air quality in the capital, with a majority of the ­efforts focusing on vehicular air pollution. In 2015, the National Green Tri­bunal (NGT) banned old diesel vehicles (10 years or older) from operating in the city, and in the first fortnight of January 2016, Delhi government implemented an odd–even vehicle rule, wherein odd and even numbered cars were allowed to operate on alternate days, albeit with several e­xemptions.

The flurry of announcements is reminiscent of events in Delhi two decades ago. In response to a large public campaign, polluting industries were relocated outside the city boundary, old diesel buses were ­retired, and all public transport ­vehicles (taxis, autorickshaws and buses) were converted to compressed natural gas (CNG) (Chand 2012; Kathuria 2002). As a result of those measures, ­reductions in PM concentrations were observed, although those gains have since been lost. The common denominator between the measures implemented then and now is the focus on the transport sector. In this article, we discuss how the perennial focus on vehicular sources for air pollution mitigation polices in ­Indian cities is d­isregarding scientific evidence, and, worse still, leading to creation of policies encouraging higher use of private motorised modes.

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