If the memorable images of the first phase of Delhi’s odd-even experiment featured the CJI and his brother judge carpooling to work, and two AAP ministers waiting for their chief to give them a lift to the secretariat, the second phase this month has delivered snapshots of cross-party participation in the scheme. On Monday, Supriya Sule of the NCP, Poonam Mahajan of the BJP and Sushmita Dev of the Congress were photographed as they prepared to share a car — in stark contrast to their parties’ squalling in Parliament over Uttarakhand or the Agusta deal. MPs belonging to the AAP’s bitter rival in Delhi, the BJP, have made their way to the House on cycle, bus and even horseback and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has broken ranks with his party to come out in support of the scheme. Of course, these tableaus of happy civic participation paper over the pockets of genuine opposition to the policy, but one thing is for sure: Pollution and the environment have become political, mainstream issues.
The power of political example must not be underestimated. Take Paris, for example, which frequently breaches EU standards for some pollutants. The city has successfully dabbled with car-free days and road rationing and has built public momentum against pollution with a helium balloon that hovers over the skyline and changes colour depending on pollution levels. But critical in the mix of interventions was the French president’s eschewal of the presidential jet for the train. In Jakarta, which also battles a pollution crisis, the governor banned city officials from using cars on the first Friday of each month. And in Switzerland, a whopping 91 per cent of delegates take the tram to parliament.
As the second phase of odd-even ends, it will no doubt be evaluated on its impact on suspended particulate matter and congestion. But in foregrounding pollution as a political issue and engendering a cross-party resolve to combat it, it has already made a dent.