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Candid admission

Calling the second phase of the odd-even scheme “very successful”, Kejriwal said the government will soon come out with a separate policy for cab and bus aggregators which will enable more taxis and buses on the roads. Within a year, he said, the government will ramp up public transport in the national capital. Meanwhile, Transport Minister Gopal Rai said that the government will make a decision on future implementation of the odd-even scheme based on analysis of various surveys on air pollution by different agencies as well as examining the effectiveness of phase 1 and 2. 

The second phase of the scheme was implemented from April 15 to 30. In the second installment of the odd-even experiment, the Aam Aadmi Party-led government made sure that faulty pollution figures do not undermine the campaign to reduce pollution in the national capital. In order to study the data available in a more effective manner, a new-three-tier air quality measurement was installed across the national capital. Irrespective of these efforts a lot more must be done to not only reduce pollution in the city but also strengthen the odd-even policy.

The recent controversy over surge-pricing by app-based taxi aggregators pointed to the urgent need for alternative sources of public transport. As expected, after the Delhi government’s ban on surge pricing, the number of taxis plying on Delhi’s roads had dropped. Many argued that the Delhi government was compelled to intervene in the absence of alternative solutions in public transport. As this column has stated in the past, the lack of adequate public transport poses the biggest hindrance to the experiment: “A mere addition of 1,000-2,000 buses will not do much to improve public transport. In fact, it could worsen the traffic situation in the capital. Besides broken seats and windows, minimal access for the disabled and no space to stow luggage, overcrowding in the Delhi Transport Corporation buses are major concerns.

 Those who do take the bus do it out of sheer necessity.  These basic features need to be repaired in existing buses. Moreover, commuters seek better punctuality and the implementation of enhanced safety measures. Another option is the Delhi metro. In order to tackle rising intake of commuters, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation recently announced that 200 metro trains will make around 3,248 trips daily during the upcoming odd-even fortnight, a rise of about 56 trips over the existing arrangements. Moreover, 15 additional feeder buses will leave from stations across the city. 

But yet again, this may not be enough to fulfill demands of last-mile connectivity. The Delhi government must deregulate autorickshaw licenses and put an end to the artificial scarcity of CNG autos in Delhi to improve last-mile connectivity. But improving the state of public transport, de-regulating auto rickshaws and addressing the problem of road dust are merely some of the solutions to the problem of air pollution. Any significant change in air pollution levels will need policy interventions at levels that are sometimes beyond the jurisdiction of the Delhi government.”
Moreover, vehicular pollution is not the only source of air pollution in the city. Road dust has been identified as the as the single biggest source (38 percent) of PM 2.5, according to a recent study. Road dust is earthen material or dirt that becomes airborne, primarily by the friction of tires moving on unpaved dirt roads and dust-covered paved roads.

 The government has made serious progress in this regard. The cabinet recently authorised the Public Works Department to vacuum-clean roads to reduce dust pollution in the Capital. If these roads are swept twice a month, road dust emission will see a significant reduction in road dust emissions.  
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