Odds and Ends. Delhi's air needs more than gimmicks.

That the air quality in Delhi is bad is no secret. A large number of people including my friend Nikhil Pahwa ( who has even taken the wise step of leaving the city )  have made noises about the issue and appealed to the government to step in and take corrective action. Even the Delhi high court chided the powers to be and equated Delhi with a “Gas chamber”. Now politicians have a deservedly bad reputation in India. The public at large views them as self centered monsters who work only for their own benefit and give scant regard to public good. Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Admi party has often projected himself as the anti-thesis of that definition. Therefore it is but obvious that he and his party men held a meeting and came up with a genius plan to clean Delhi’s air once and for all.

Lo and behold, the odd and even situation. From the 1st of January 2016 only odd or even numbered private cars will be able to ply on Delhi streets on alternative days. There we fixed it.

The data however disagrees.

As pointed out by several commentators,the odds and even plan is just too odd to work.  Some arguments that expose this folly are :

  • Road Dust contributes a larger amount of particulate matter to our air. While all vehicular pollution contributes only a total of 41550 units of PM2.5 and PM10 to our air, road dust exceeds that figure in PM10 numbers alone ( 41750) ( Source)
  • The number of people who commute using private transport is still a small percentage, reducing the number of cars in half will barely make a difference to the pollution levels.  (source)
  • This plan is going to significantly impact  single car families, and specially women who may be forced to curb their transportation needs, as Naina rightly pointed out. ( source)

Whilst the aim is to encourage public transport, the current infrastructure is already overburdened. Pushing more people into the system is like putting the cart before the horse. The system should first build the requisite mechanisms in place and then nudge the population into behavior change.

One of the most important factors that people tend to ignore in this whole debate on public transportation is the lack of facilities for pedestrians who are often forced to walk in muck and filth to reach public transportation. Till all the links of this system are strengthened it will be stupid frankly to expect Delhi to ditch their cars.

How do we bring about change then?

Introducing night sweeping, improve and clean our sidewalks, remove encroachments from roads. A glance at the figures would show that Moving brick kilns out of Delhi, banning burning of waste, night sweeping, and improving power supply to curb use of gensets can reduce PM2.5 and PM10 figures by as much as 33% and 47% respectively.

Banning entry of the large number of polluting trucks that enter Delhi on a daily basis  will also help reduce vehicular pollution, banning old diesel vehicles is another easy step.

I know Mr. Kejriwal has the desire to be seen as somebody who does work, but if he would do some homework before coming to knee jerk decisions it would serve him and the population of Delhi much better.


  1. Makes sense. It's just going to create more issues for people. Though I feel we do need to limit the number of cars/household but then again that's a small part of of a very big problem. I have a feeling this 'experiment' will not last long. I also feel this is part of Kejriwals doctor's recommendation to cure his cough :)


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