Environment Minister Gopal Rai announced on Monday that the odd-even car rationing scheme will be enforced in Delhi from November 13 to 20 as a measure to combat air pollution. Rai also said that to safeguard the health of schoolchildren, the government has decided to suspend in-person classes in all schools, except for students in grades X and XII preparing for board exams.
”The odd-even scheme will come into effect in Delhi after Diwali, running from November 13 to November 20. A decision to extend the scheme will be made after November 20,” the minister said during a press meet here.
He said the details of the odd-even scheme, including exemptions, will be worked out soon in consultation with the transport department.
Introduced in 2016, the odd-even car rationing scheme permits cars to operate on alternate days based on their odd or even number plates. The enforcement next week would mark the fourth time that the Delhi government will implement this scheme to tackle pollution caused by vehicles.
According to a 2018 study conducted by The Energy and Resources Institute, vehicular emissions contribute to roughly 40 percent of the PM 2.5 pollution in the capital.
Rai said the directives have been issued to implement the stringent restrictions mandated under the final stage of the Central government’s air pollution control plan for Delhi-NCR called the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).
The restrictions under stage IV of GRAP, including a ban on all kinds of construction work and the entry of polluting trucks into the capital, kicked in on Sunday after air quality in the capital dropped to ”severe plus” (AQI above 450) levels.
Rai also said that a decision on work-from-home order for 50 per cent of staff in government and private offices will be taken after Diwali.
Earlier on Monday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal held a meeting with senior officials of his government to review the implementation of an action plan to control air pollution in winter.
Rai said the air pollution situation may improve over the next few days due to an expected increase in wind speed. However, he cautioned that the air quality may deteriorate again due to factors such as firecracker burning during the Diwali festival, upcoming 2023 cricket World Cup match in Delhi, and Chhath Puja.
On Monday, pollution levels in Delhi-NCR were recorded around seven to eight times above the government-prescribed safe limit, as a toxic haze persisted over the region for the seventh consecutive day.
According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), conditions favourable for the dispersion of pollutants are likely to develop Tuesday night onwards under the influence of an upcoming western disturbance, weather systems originating in the Mediterranean region that bring unseasonal rainfall to northwest India.
Doctors have noted that people with pre-existing respiratory conditions have experienced significant problems as a result of the poisonous haze that has been prevalent in the city over the past week.
Unfavourable meteorological conditions, combined with vehicular emissions, paddy straw burning, firecrackers, and other local pollution sources, contribute to hazardous air quality levels in Delhi-NCR during the winter every year.
According to the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), the capital experiences peak pollution from November 1 to November 15 when the number of stubble burning incidents in Punjab and Haryana increases.