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View: The return of Odd-Even populism

In the longer term, of course, we could do away with internal combustion engines altogether, switching to electric vehicles.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Sep 13, 2019, 04.19 PM IST
One way to look at the announcement of the return of the Odd-Even system of regulating traffic on Delhi roads is to look at the effect the full moon has on even the least odd people at the best of times and speculate what could happen when that full moon happens to be on Friday the 13th. A more serious approach would be to identify the populist symbolism of the move that the lightweights charged with combating air pollution use as a cover for their inability to do the needed heavy lifting.

Transport contributes less than two-fifths of the pollution that befouls the air in Delhi. The best way to tackle that is to deploy public transport, including the missing last-mile connectivity, improve the quality of fuel as well as the quality of vehicle engines, to make them make good on the superior quality fuel, in terms of both more complete combustion, greater conversion of the heat generated into kinetic energy and precipitation of particulate matter in the emissions via catalytic converters fitted to vehicle exhaust. In the longer term, of course, we could do away with internal combustion engines altogether, switching to electric vehicles. In Delhi’s case, the peripheral expressway that is under construction will prevent traffic that merely seeks to transit through Delhi from entering the city altogether.

It is not particulate matter alone that matters. Oxides of sulphur and nitrogen erode health, corrode the innards of electrical and electronic equipment, not to speak of that wheezy equipment inside the body called lungs, and even depress children’s exam performance. Construction dust and road dust must be tackled. Farmers in neighbouring states who burn crop stubble, the resultant soot from which incendiary activity wafts into Delhi and hangs heavy in the moist winter air, must be incentivised to use the so-called Happy Seeder machines, which plough in the crop stubble into the soil, while sowing the seeds for the next crop, adding to soil fertility. Or an industry must come up that buys the stubble and converts it into energy, either via an incinerator or a bio-digester. Either way, funds are required to wean farmers off the currently fashionable smoky solution to crop stubble.

Public transport is being expanded, but not nearly on the scale required. Electric buses are few and far between. Mandating construction companies to use ready-mixed concrete, instead of dry cement in porous sacks, should not be difficult, but is. Removing the heaps of dust and rubbish that hordes of sweepers painstakingly pile up on the roadside every morning, as soon as they are built, instead of waiting for the next passing vehicle to blow the gathered dust back onto the road and into the air, seems to be an impossible act of coordination. But Odd-Even? That is simple to announce, registers as an earnest effort on the part of the government and gets Stockholm Syndrome support from sections of the suffering public. So what if it does not particularly reduce air pollution?

Also Read

No decision yet on extending odd-even scheme

No Odd-Even restriction in Delhi on November 11,12

Electric vehicles exempted from odd-even scheme

Notification to implement odd-even scheme issued

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