Odd-Even Shows A Big Change For We, The Polluters

Published: January 09, 2016 03:41 IST
A week into Delhi's Odd-Even trial, it's obvious the scheme won't bring down pollution single-handedly. Science makes it clear factors like temperature, wind, humidity, etc affect air quality. Also there's been no other simultaneous, large-scale crackdown on other polluting sources, except the rerouting of non-Delhi bound trucks to prevent them from entering the capital.

Given that lakhs of cars in Delhi are affected by the Odd-Even trial, it was always going to be the headline grabber. But its biggest achievement is that it's shown the willingness of Delhi residents to accept inconvenient change for the larger goal of cleaner air.

Yes, there are some who object to this. But sample some of the positive comments from just one group on Facebook.

"It's heartening to see that the "odd-ly" "even" formula is getting such a positive response...in no rush to see drastic changes...by & by we shall make it work!

"Even though I am exempt from the odd/even scheme being a woman driver and I drive a Hybrid the other days of the year, it JUST DID NOT FEEL RIGHT to take the other car out today which is odd numbered and runs on Deisel. Going back home and will take the Metro to that meeting in Gurgaon today."

It's a willingness all politicians in power should recognise and, if they are pragmatic, seize upon to bring in tougher anti-pollution policies. This is an appeal specially to the Chief Ministers of Haryana, UP and Bihar. For much of the second week of January, the air across these states has been at the highest danger level according to the National AQI. At this level, not even healthy people should be outside. But much of this region runs on not just highly polluting Bharat Stage 3 diesel vehicles but also on generators. And it's dotted with chimneys spewing filth. The pictures below were taken on short drive from Delhi into Western UP. All this creates the brown haze above us.

The Central government has done well on one major front. A month ago, it said it would introduce the much-cleaner Bharat Stage 6 by 2021 instead of 2023; a week into the Odd-Even trial, they've advanced it to 2019. And most importantly, the government statement said it will be implemented across India. The staggered implementation of BS 4 over seven years has frankly been a failure - it was introduced in 2010 and will cover all of India next year...hopefully!

Diesel engines in Bharat Stage 6 will emit 68% less Nitrogen Oxide emissions than the current BS 4 and 80% less particulate matter. Petrol engines too will be about 25% cleaner. Yet the massive auto sector has begun to question the need for BS 6. This flummoxes one: forget profit, how can they condone the poisoning of their own children? As long as four years ago, WHO listed diesel exhaust as a carcinogen for humans.

In fact, the Supreme Court has asked the government: why not implement BS 6 by 2019. If that becomes an order, it will truly be a landmark decision.

The politically toughest change will be to reduce the burning of biomass by the poorest. The clean alternative will have to be free or available at a negligible cost. But that challenge is still some time away. First, we the polluters need to pay.

(Chetan Bhattacharji is Managing Editor at NDTV)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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