10 Ways For Cleaner Air In Delhi (Other Than ‘Odd-Even’)

Air pollution Delhi

Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

As India continues to have many cities in the top air polluting cities in the world list, including capital New Delhi, the ‘Odd-Even’ concept has been the most newsworthy measure taken up by the government in order to tackle the issue. Air pollution is now a leading cause of deaths, and a recent report states that life expectancy in Delhi has come down by around 6 years because of toxic air pollution levels. [1]

While Odd-Even has successfully reduced traffic congestion, its effects on air pollution are not clear. According to a report by IIT Kanpur [2], the major source of particulate matter (both PM2.5 and PM10) in Delhi is road dust. Vehicles come in second, with industries, concrete and construction, cooking coal, diesel generators and municipal solid waste burning coming close. Add to this the weather conditions and you will realise why there are contradicting reports of air pollution levels increasing or falling during the two phases of Odd-Even implementation.

Critics are hence skeptical, but the simple fact is, lesser cars = lesser pollution. There are concerns whether Delhi is equipped to handle this. The government has increased public transportation services and has promised to provide more for the next phase. Delhi, which has the highest per capita car ownership in the country, has been witnessing a fall in public bus use. Buses are the second best public transport (Metro rail is the best available in Delhi) to reduce congestion and air pollution.

What needs to be realized is that Odd-Even is just the beginning – it is the first of many steps that have to be taken by the government and the citizens to make sure our city air is safe to breathe.

Delhi Metro Rail

Delhi Metro – A Green Public Transportation                                        Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

Additional Measures That Can Be Taken To Reduce Air Pollution

  1. Vacuuming of roads for dust twice a month can reduce road dust by 23 percent. If done four times a month, it can bring down the value by 52 percent. This will lower the PM10 levels considerably.
  2. More Public Transport – Increase the number of Metro rails, buses (preferably hybrid or electric) and improve the last mile connectivity through battery powered e-rickshaws.
  3. Encouraging car pooling and ride sharing though offices, apps and other ways.
  4. Euro VI fuel – Ultra low sulphur diesel and better refined petrol will bring down particulate matter, sulphur and nitrogen oxides considerably. Upgrading vehicles to Euro VI norms, Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF), will bring down PM levels by 90 percent than current norms.
  5. Scrapping Older Vehicles – National Green Tribunal (NGT) has already banned 10 year old diesel cars in six cities.
  6. A better and more comprehensive emission measuring standard instead of banning diesel cars over 2000cc. Displacement (cc) is not directly proportional to emissions today.
  7. Regulating and improving technology in construction sites. A simple mechanical cover can help reduce concrete dust from flying and spreading.
  8. Getting more vehicles under the Odd-Even rule. Currently, many are exempted.
  9. Encouraging greener vehicles such as hybrids, electric cars and two wheelers. Conversion to CNG – a better fossil fuel for the time being.
  10. Encouraging solar and other renewable power backup solutions instead of diesel generators.

Odd-Even has been successfully implemented in cities such as Mexico City which once had only eight good air quality days in a year due to severe air pollution. Today it sees nearly 250 good air quality days. There are concerns over increase in car ownership of different number plates. Mexico City, where the car density is higher than ours, had seen a rise of just 4 percent in new car sales. Like Beijing, Mexico City was covered in haze and today the average PM2.5 concentration is a safe 20 micrograms per cubic metres. In Delhi, this concentration is 122 micrograms per cubic metres. Let us act before birds start dying like they did in Mexico City.


[1] Life expectancy drops 6 years in Delhi due to pollution: Study – The Times of India Dt. Jun 7, 2016

[2] National Air Quality Index report – sponsored study from Central Pollution Control Board, Delhi, headed by Dr. Mukesh Sharma, CE and Dr. Arnab Bhattacharya, CSE of IIT Kanpur.

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