People, Environment

Car Curb Scheme in Delhi

Car Curb Scheme in DelhiCar Curb Scheme in Delhi

The Indian capital on Friday kicked off a sweeping plan to reduce its record-high air pollution by limiting the numbers of cars on the streets for two weeks.

New Delhi is testing a formula where private cars will be allowed on the roads only on alternate days from January 1-15, depending on whether their license plates end in an even or an odd number.

On Friday, most cars appeared to be following the rules and traffic was a trickle compared to the usual rush-hour chaos. But with schools and colleges shut, and many offices closed for the New Year holiday, it was not clear how much of the reduced traffic was the result of the new regulations, CTV reported.

Monday, the first regular workday since the plan began, will be a clearer test of whether New Delhi’s notoriously rule-averse drivers will comply, and how much the city’s already-overburdened public transit system can help.

The city government last week announced a number of exemptions to the new rules, including top politicians, judges, police officials, women, sick people and motorcycles. Still, the plan represented the most dramatic effort the city has undertaken to combat pollution since a court order in 1998 mandated that all public transport use compressed natural gas.

Police appeared to be purposefully keeping a low profile Friday. Except for a handful of major intersections, where police and civil defense volunteers set up checkpoints to watch for wrong-numbered license plates, there was little official presence on the roads.

When cars were pulled over, the result was almost always a warning, not the $30 fine that has been announced. Police officials said they do not have enough staff to properly enforce the rule.

Delhi has an estimated 7.5 million registered vehicles, including many that run on highly polluting diesel. The pollution is fed by construction dust, ash from crop waste burned in nearby farming areas and sand from the Thar Desert.

On Friday morning, the average PM2.5 levels for New Delhi was over 297. That is a relatively low number for New Delhi in winter, but is still about 15 times higher than the WHO standard of 20.