The recent decision by the Delhi government to address the alarming pollution levels has invited the wrath of people. What is this odd-even car rationing system? It is a simple arrangement that on any given day only either odd or even numbered cars can hit the road. It is being argued that the decision is unfair, it is a burden on the common people and that it is unrealistic.
Time for a rain check. Finally Delhi is getting its act together odd-even rule.
What is in fact unfair is that the city was allowed to reach this day where nothing changes even after the city was declared as the most polluted city in the word by World Health Organisation in 2014. The pollution levels dipped a bit after the CNG programme was unveiled in 2001, only to shoot up in 2005 and worsen until today. Clearly, it isn’t just the buses and rickshaws that are behind the pollution, in fact they are instrumental in reducing pollution if anything.
Delhi has more than four million registered vehicles. Currently, the city adds over 1,000 new personal vehicles each day on its roads. This is almost double what was added in the city in pre-CNG days. And a considerable number of these vehicles run on diesel.
The most worrying trend is a decreasing ridership of Delhi’s buses – according to a 2008 study done by RITES, between 2001 to 2007-08, the bus’s share in the modal split has fallen from 60 per cent to 41 per cent.
“An advanced city is not a place where the poor move about in cars, rather it’s where even the rich use public transportation” – Enrique Penalosa, Mayor, Bogota, Columbia.
What is irrational is to believe that the city can continue to function this way and that a miracle will reduce the pollution. On a Car Free day observed at a crowded stretch of Delhi in October 2015, pollution levels were observed to have dropped 60% than a normal day. Even after such damning evidence, governments find it increasingly difficult to challenge the false sense of entitlement of private vehicle owners all over the country. The larger problem lies in the fact that cities are being designed for vehicles and not for people. While cities reel under the pressures of congestion and pollution, ironically nothing is being done to make public transport an attractive option for the masses. Paradoxically, more roads are being built, more parking is being provided without realising that they are digging the grave deeper and that the solution lies elsewhere. Mobility which is in fact a necessity for every person is becoming a luxury of sorts, where the rich are ultimately ending up taxing the poor for the facilities being used.
It is unrealistic to expect all to bear the brunt of air pollution being caused by increased private vehicle usage. Cities around the world are realising the fact that cities are meant for people and not cars. The concept of car rationing i.e. odd-even, is only a beginning of strict clear measures that the Delhi government will have to take. Some other measures being implemented around the world
- Congestion Charging: The concept is to control the number of vehicles in a particular area at a particular time by collecting an entry tax. This helps control peak time congestion and pollution. This is being done already in London, New York and Stockholm to name a few.
- Parking Policy: Parking is not a birth right and this needs to register strongly. Providing easy and free parking only encourages more vehicles on road, along with the fact that land which is an important resource is being given out for free. Parking can be used as an efficient controlling mechanism, by limiting parking spaces and charging heavily.
- Encouraging Public Transport Systems like Bus Rapid Transit: Cities should be well equipped with good public transport systems, feeder services and integrated modes of transportation for convenient mobility for all. The Bus Rapid Transit system has been successfully implemented in cities like Huangzhou, Bogota, Sydney, Adelaide and so on. The shift from private to public modes of transport is crucial for any city to maintain its livability.
- Public Bicycle Scheme: A first of this kind, the ‘Velib’ was introduced in Paris where cycle stations are made all over the city enabling a user to pick up a cycle from one place and drop it off at any station anywhere in the city at a reasonable price. This has now also been done in cities in China and many European countries like Brisbane, Barcelona, Germany and so on.