Odd-Even Scheme Makes A Comeback On the Delhi Streets

Will the odd even scheme be able to tackle air pollution in its third edition?


The Odd-Even Scheme is all set to make a comeback in its third edition as air pollution levels begin to rise drastically in the national capital. On September 13, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced its implementation from November 4-15. 

The Hindu

The scheme is part of a 7-point plan to tackle pollution in the national capital, which was launched by the Delhi Government.

Here’s the complete set of rules:

1. Vehicles will play alternately on odd and even dates as per their registration numbers. It means vehicles running with number plates ending in even numbers like 0,2,4,6 and 8 will be allowed to run on even dates, while those with number plates ending in odd numbers like 1,3,5,7 and 9 will be allowed to run on odd dates.

2. The biggest difference this time could be the amount of fine to be levied on the violation. Earlier, a fine of Rs 2,000 was imposed on the violators of the rule. Now, under the amended Motor Vehicles’ Act, people violating the scheme could end up paying as much as Rs 20,000 as fine. 

3. The odd-even rule, like previous times, should be in force from 8 am to 8 pm on all days, except Sundays.

4. As in the past, the government is likely to exempt CNG vehicles, electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles from the odd-even scheme, though any official notification about any exemption has not been issued yet.

5. Women drivers are also likely to be exempted from the odd-even rule.

6. Two-wheelers like scooters and bikes should also get an exemption from the scheme.

7. Vehicles carrying children in school uniforms may also be given an exemption.

8. Commercial vehicles bearing yellow number plates, including CNG-run cabs, three-wheeler, and four-wheeler tempos, autos and taxis may be allowed to ply during the odd-even scheme.

9. Vehicles belonging to country’s top brass including President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Chief Minister of all states (except Delhi), Governors of the states, Chief Justice of India, Union Ministers, Judges of Delhi High Court and Supreme Court, Leaders of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Deputy Speaker of the LokSabha and Lokayukta are likely to be exempted.

Road dust, the leading polluter

Road dust is the city’s biggest polluter, accounting for 38 percent of PM 2.5 and 56 percent of PM 10 concentration, according to a study by IIT, Kanpur in 2017 while two-wheelers, which are exempt from the odd-even rule, account for 33 percent of all PM10 and PM 2.5 emissions by vehicles.

Image source: Hindustan Times

Vehicles are number four in the hierarchy of pollution sources, accounting for 20 percent of PM 2.5 and 9 percent of PM 10 concentration in Delhi’s air.

Four-wheelers contribute to 10 percent of all PM 10 and PM 2.5 emissions by vehicles.

Did the odd-even scheme work?

While the scheme has received mixed feedback, there are a number of studies published over the last three years to explain why it worked and why it did not.

In 2017, a joint study conducted by atmospheric scientists of IITs and IIM had revealed that pollution levels declined only by 2%-3% in the first phase of the odd-even scheme. Only three areas in Delhi—Najafgarh, Shalimar Bagh and Greater Kailash—witnessed an 8%-10% drop in pollution, the study said.

Another report published in 2018 by Current Science found that the Delhi government’s ‘odd-even’ initiative to curb pollution, in fact, led to an increase in vehicular emissions.

Odd-Even in other countries

The odd-even scheme is not new. It has been launched it other countries as well. 

Beijing is an amazing example. During the 2008 Olympics, a system of road-rationing the license plates was implemented in Beijing to check the rising pollution levels in the Chinese capital and the emission levels came down to 40 percent. For the first time ever in a long time, people were able to see a blue sky and the PM level dropped by 73.2% compared to the previous year. 

Image source: Reuters

Other countries were the scheme has been applied are Sao Paulo, Paris, Mexico, Oslo, and London.

How can the odd-even scheme be improved?

“There are multiple issues that need addressing. The operating time of the scheme needs to be 24 hours instead of the current 8-to-8 system, which incentivizes commuters to reschedule their travels defeating the purpose of the idea itself,” Vivek Chattopadhyay, program manager of the air pollution unit at CSE told Down To Earth

“Prices of public transport need to be made negligible, it should provide last-mile connectivity and availability also needs to improve,” added Chattopadhyay. 

The scheme needs to be introduced in coordination with the Uttar Pradesh and Haryana governments to combat traffic confusion, he said.

The odd-even scheme should be treated as an emergency measure and should be implemented for not more than three to four days, said Chattopadhyay.


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Siya Bhatia

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