Asia Minute: New Delhi Tries New Route to Clear Air Pollution

Jan 18, 2016

Credit Wikipedia Commons

India’s capital city has some of the worst air pollution in the world—even worse than Beijing. This week, authorities in New Delhi will evaluate an experiment that began with the start of the New Year. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

The idea was a simple one.  Cut down on the number of private cars allowed on the roads of New Delhi by rationing driving based on license plate numbers. Cars with license plates ending with odd numbers were allowed on one day, the following day only even numbers.  The government tried this as an experiment for the first two weeks of the New Year—and authorities said it took 1/3 of the city’s private cars off the road.

That’s about a million vehicles…but the early reports of results have not been encouraging.  An independent think tank called the Council on Energy, Environment and Water found there was “no conclusive evidence to prove that the odd-even policy improved Delhi’s air quality or reduced traffic congestion.”  Analysis by another policy research organization that monitored other locations in the Indian capital found little change in air quality but a definite improvement in traffic.

The Indian Express reports a third study has found that road dust is a major culprit when it comes to air pollution…along with the vehicles themselves and burning coal.  Despite taking all those cars off the road, the state-run System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research showed pollution remained at a level between “very poor” and “severe” over the past two weeks.