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Odd-even days in Delhi over: Now here's a detailed technical and political analysis!
With an aim to control alarming level of air pollution in Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal's government came out with the formula of odd-even, which allowed only odd-numbered vehicles to run on odd dates and even-numbered vehicles on even dates. The first phase of the formula was implemented from January 1 to January 15. The second phase of 15 days recently concluded on April 30.

There was a huge debate over the success of the second phase in political as well as non-political arena. Some reports like one by IndiaSpend claimed that pollution level rose by 23 per cent during the days when odd-even was in effect.

Countering this report a New Delhi-based NGO, CSE yesterday released its analysis of air quality data during the second phase of odd and even scheme. The analysis showed that air pollution took a downward dip during the first 10 days of the scheme, but, registered a sudden spike from April 22 onwards.

CSE further said that the sudden spike could be due to massive crop fires in Punjab and Haryana that started around April 19.

Before this latest report surfaced, had a detailed discussion with Vivek Chattopadhyaya, programme manager, Air Pollution Control Unit at CSE, who was also keeping a close watch on the Delhi government's odd-even scheme. 

When we asked Vivek if weather had anything to do with the odd-even formula in terms of its effectiveness, he had to say this: "When you see during winters and summers, there is a major difference. During the winter time your air moment generally remains very calm. And the boundary layer of the atmosphere is very close to the ground, so it does not allow any emissions to go up and mix. But in summer time you have sun, and it allows mixing and in this season there is a problem of ozone. So, in summers these two are problematic things, and reduction is only possible if you reduce number of vehicles.">

Vivek termed the odd-even formula a well established tool to control air pollution in a short period of time, provided it is implemented strategically.

"Odd-even formula is a well established tool among other emergency response system methods to reduce air-pollution in a short period of time. But, it requires implementation strategy, where simultaneously two efforts are made. First thing is to effectively reduce number of private vehicles plying on daily basis. For example, the cities which have very high number of petrol and diesel cars. In Indian context and Asian context we have two wheelers also. But if we see the public transport its not up to the mark, even the data shows that it is not adequate. So, it has made the Delhiites dependent on cars and two-wheelers. The requirement was 10,000 buses in 2001, now the Delhi roads should have at least 15,000 buses."

Vivek Chattopadhyaya while talking about the meteorology of Delhi explained why some cities despite having high emission rate than Delhi have less pollution level.

"Most of the people are saying that the traffic congestion has reduced due to odd-even. Definitely in the immediate exposure you are getting benefit. But, the thing is Delhi has such type of meteorology which doesn't allow air to move very often, it is very different from the coastal areas like Bombay, Chennai, Bangalore etc. These cities, despite having probably high emissions, will not see that kind of pollution in the city. So, that is the reason the meteorology or climate conditions doesn't help Delhi."

Vivek advised the State government not to concentrate on controlling only one source of pollution i.e. vehicular pollution, as there are other segments also that contributes in air pollution e.g. residue burning, industrial contribution etc.

On the final day of the second phase of odd-even scheme i.e. April 30, Delhi's chief minister Arvind Kejriwal thanked and congratulated the people of Delhi for making the scheme successful.  

However, opposition parties in Delhi have a different opinion on the effectiveness of this pollution control measure. Sudhanshu Mittal, a BJP leader from Delhi claimed that the odd-even 2.0 was unsuccessful.

"First thing is, part 2 is failure because it failed to achieve the objective. The objective was to reduce the air pollution, all empirical evidences collected on this issue shows that there was no reduction. The only thing it managed to achieve is that it caused inconvenience to all sections of the society. Without augmenting the public transport system, nearly banning the use of private cars, without providing alternative was a cruel joke against the people of Delhi. Secondly, there was never an idea to bring in a reform, the idea was to use an event to publicize your own self. The government wasted money on publicity, it was not used educate people. It was used to publicize Mr. Arvind Kejriwal. So, the objective was never service, but, basically to create a larger than life image of Kejriwal at the cost of public money. This is something we condemn."

Sudhanshu Mittal said that because of odd-even scheme Delhiites were forced to buy second car.

"A very critical thing is, you know whether it is a permanent thing or a temporary thing, you kept people guessing. Because of this lot of people have bought a second car. See, the objective was that the people should do with one car and the other day they should use public transport. That has not happened, but on the contrary what has happened is that people have landed up buying more cars. A city which already faces problem of parking, today has to accommodate additional car. Thus making the entire endeavor a mockery. So, all in all there was neither an objective nor an accomplishment, it was only a gimmick and self propagation at the cost of people's money and people's comfort."

Former Congress MP from Delhi, Mahabal Mishra advised Arvind Kejriwal not to re-introduce odd-even until and unless the public transport system in the city is strengthened. He said the odd-even only helped in reducing traffic congestion in the city.

"See, I am not anti odd-even, but, pollution can not be controlled only by controlling vehicular traffic. There are many other things like dust, industrial waste etc. Yes, the odd-even helped a bit in reducing traffic congestion. Other than this there was no use of odd-even formula. The parents faced problems in dropping their kids to school. Till the Delhi government does not provide public transport adequately, it should not continue with odd-even."

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