But dismantling the culture of owning wheels will require more resolve and stringency.
Despite being stopped by the Centre from attending the C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal addressed it via videoconferencing. Lauding teenage icon Greta Thunberg for her advocacy, Mr Kejriwal also spoke about his own government’s moves to curb air pollution, including the twice-experimented “odd-even” car rationing scheme, which he claimed made a 10-15 per cent difference in reducing air pollution. This scheme, set to return in November, was tried out in Mexico City (1989), Beijing (2008), Paris (2014), Sao Paolo, Bogota and Jakarta. This and the shutting of thermal power plants, among other measures, led to Delhi’s pollution reducing by 25 per cent in three years, he said.
The number of good air days in Delhi has indeed been rising, from 106 in 2016 to 159 in 2018, Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar admitted recently. The courts deserve a share of the credit. The Supreme Court banned 15-year-old petrol and 10-year-old diesel vehicles last year, the step first mooted by the NGT, bolstering the Delhi government’s move to deregister 40 lakh “overage” vehicles. It also helped the government formulate its first parking policy.
But dismantling the culture of owning wheels will require more resolve and stringency. Disappointingly, if a bit predictably (though bus travel was made free for them), Delhi’s women are still exempted from the odd-even scheme. While it’s a fact the city doesn’t have good point-to-point bus links, except on some routes, many women don’t use alternative public transport. They need to discourage their families from buying the Bharat Stage-IV vehicles manufacturers are being asked to phase out. The neighbouring states must also pitch in, training farmers to dispose of their crop stubble by means other than burning. The fruits of this effort will save all our lives.