Hours after the National Green Tribunal asked the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government not to exempt two-wheelers and vehicles driven by women from the odd-even vehicle rationing scheme, the Delhi government on Saturday announced it would not implement the scheme from Monday. The government had, on Thursday, said it would implement the scheme for five days between November 13 and 17.
The government, however, said it “intends to move an application before the NGT” on Monday “to review its order” and press for exemption for two-wheelers and women drivers.
Representatives of the Delhi government and neighbouring states, the municipal corporations as well as transport officials had appeared before the tribunal on Saturday morning, a day after the NGT said the Delhi government should not implement the scheme unless they could “satisfy” the tribunal that it was not “counter-productive”.
During Saturday’s hearing, which started at 11 am, the tribunal said, “The government of NCT of Delhi would be free to implement odd-even as decided by it, but strictly subject to conditions, in terms of when the particulate matter (PM) 10 and PM 2.5 crosses the value of 500 and 300 respectively. No exemption to any person, officer, industrial unit within its ambit. However, the vehicles which are CNG operated would be safe from the implementation of odd-even.”
The hearing ended at 12.45 pm, and at 3.30 pm, following a meeting between Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Health Minister Satyendar Jain, Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot and bureaucrats, the Delhi government announced it had decided to withdraw its earlier decision to implement the scheme from Monday.
“This government gives highest priority to the safety and security of women and, therefore, it feels that the exemption to this category should continue. Further, this government feels that considering the large number of two-wheelers in Delhi, unless adequate number of buses are available, implementation of odd-even will cause great hardship to such persons. It is not feasible to arrange such a large number of buses at this stage,” the Delhi government said in a statement.
There are a total 1,05,67,712 vehicles registered in the Capital, of which 66,48,730 or over 60% are two-wheelers. There are about 4,000 DTC buses in the city.
The government’s decision to implement the odd-even scheme had come against the backdrop of a sharp dip in air quality in the Capital, which found itself enveloped in a thick blanket of smog from November 9. The PM levels in the city also touched ‘severe’ levels, prompting the NGT to declare an ‘emergency’ and announce that schools in the city would remain shut until Sunday.
On Saturday, the tribunal said it wanted the exemptions to be removed as two-wheelers contribute significantly to pollution. Quoting the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), NGT said, “Vehicular pollution contributes 20% of total pollution load in Delhi, out of which 30% is contributed by two-wheelers.”
The NGT added that according to the CPCB, two-wheelers are much larger in number and emit serious pollutants such as carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons in higher quantity as compared to petrol vehicles.