In wake of the implementation of the odd-even scheme in New Delhi, most people did accept that the lack of peak-hour traffic congestion on a daily basis was a welcome change, especially for long-distance commuters. However, despite reducing the number of private cars plying on Delhi roads, absolute pollution levels have in fact gone up across NCR in January as compared to December, a stat which has led to significant concern among the masses with regards to the effectiveness of this strategy.
However, a new study jointly conducted by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) and the Evidence for Policy Design group from Harvard University has found that there were 'stark reductions' in pollutants at around 12pm during the odd-even scheme. As a result, the rise in absolute pollution witnessed by New Delhi itself in January was a 'smaller increase' as compared with the rest of NCR.
Every day, the 12 hours of implementation (8am to 8pm) witnessed much larger drops in pollution levels as the gap between pollution in Delhi and its surrounding areas widened steadily and continued to do so till midnight, states the study. These findings are based on data obtained from the Central Pollution Control Board and private portal, IndiaSpend.
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When speaking with PTI, Anant Sudarshan, Director of EPIC-India, said," Particulates (PM 2.5) declined by 10-13 per cent on an average (i.e overall 24 hours) and by 18 per cent on average during the period when the scheme was in force (i.e between 8am to 8pm)." However, as was predicted, there was no effect after 8pm and hence, the daily 24-hours average was lower than the daytime average. The conclusions regarding the effectiveness of the program were drawn by comparing Delhi's air standards with those of neighbouring NCR townships like Faridabad, Noida, and Gurgaon. All these areas are geographically very similar to Delhi and feature the same weather and pollution conditions as they are 'equally exposed' to other sources of pollution like the cloud of smog created by the burning of crops in farm-rich states that surround the National Capital Region and the dust kicked up by humongous building projects.
As per Indian standards, 60ug/ cubic metre is the acceptable 'safe limit' of PM 2.5 particulates that can be present in the air. PM 2.5 is the smallest and most dangerous of all air pollutants as its 2.5micron size allows it to settle deep inside the lungs from where they are able to enter the bloodstream.
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Given the positives that have come out of the trial phase of the odd-even scheme, the Delhi government is looking to iron out a few issues with the scheme before re-applying it sometime in March-April, after school students are done with their board examinations.