The only option to control air pollution in Delhi when weather conditions get more adverse is to explore a ban on all non-CNG vehicles or implementation of the odd-even scheme wherein all private vehicles are included, chairperson of the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) wrote to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) member secretary on Wednesday.
EPCA chairperson Bhure Lal asked the CPCB member secretary Prashant Gargav to discuss the options with the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) task force and revert to the Supreme Court-mandated body.
Delhi has seen two rounds of the odd-even scheme. The last was seen in April 2016 after which the National Green Tribunal (NGT) said that exemptions for women and two-wheelers will not apply in the next phase of the road rationing scheme. The Supreme Court had then stayed the NGT order, allowing exemptions.
Lal had written to the Delhi government as well as the pollution control body on Monday, saying that if pollution continues to rise there was “no other option but to direct a complete stop on the use of private and commercial vehicles other than those plying on CNG”.
In Wednesday’s letter, Lal said that vehicles contribute 40 per cent of the total emission load in Delhi and around 30 per cent of emissions in the NCR. “Even after removing trucks and other diesel commercial vehicles, which are the highest segment of this pollution load, the remaining vehicles add up to substantial load, particularly private diesel vehicles which contribute substantially to both NOx and PM emissions,” stated the letter.
There are 800,000 CNG vehicles registered in Delhi.
According to Delhi government officials, EPCA’s recommendations are “unimplementable”. “Delhi simply does not have the capacity to enforce a ban on all non-CNG vehicles or include all vehicles in odd-even. That is why the government went to the Supreme Court against the order passed by NGT. In any case, pollution levels in Delhi are improving and the crop burning season in Punjab and Haryana is also coming to an end. We are hopeful that a situation where such drastic measures need to be imposed are not going to repeat in this season,” said a senior government official.
The unavailability of public transport is also something Lal has written about in the letter. “I am also aware that any restriction on plying of private vehicles, without adequate public transport, creates huge inconvenience to people. It is for this reason that EPCA, for the past many years, has stressed on the need for augmentation of public transport, not just in Delhi but in the NCR. The Comprehensive Action Plan, which is now notified but still nowhere close to implementation, includes time-bound action on public transport,” Lal said in the letter.