New Delhi, Dec 4: In a radical step to curb air pollution that has assumed "critical" level, Delhi Government today announced that private vehicles bearing odd and even registration numbers will be allowed to ply only on alternate days starting January 1, which drew mixed reactions.
In an emergency meeting chaired by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, a day after the High Court compared Delhi to a "gas chamber", the government also decided a series of steps to cut pollution which included shutting down of a thermal power plant and making it mandatory for vehicles to have Euro VI emission norms from 2017.
The odd/even number scheme, similar to the one in place in Chinese capital Beijing and Singapore, allows vehicles with number plates ending with an odd number to be driven one day while those ending with an even number can be plied the next day, meaning that a motorist will be able ply his vehicle only for 15 days in a month.
Announcing the decision, Chief Secretary KK Sharma said emergency services like ambulances and public transport will not be under the ambit of the restriction.
In its reaction, Congress described the move as "anti-people" while BJP, adopting a cautious approach, said it supported measures to curb pollution but wondered if the step was practical. Environmentalists welcomed the decision.
"We welcome any step to curb pollution but it should be practical," Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, adding that it should not happen that such a measure is rejected outright.
Congress general secretary and spokesperson Shakeel Ahmad said that Arvind Kejriwal government's decision was aimed at cheap publicity and will harass the common man.
However, the move got a near unanimous welcome from green experts, most of whom stressed that the situation called for "drastic measures".
Environmentalist Sunita Narain supported the move, saying pollution in Delhi was at a health emergency level and such steps were needed.
Director General of Centre for Science and Environment Sunita Narain said it will have implementation challenges but was imperative as the city's air pollution has reached the level of "public emergency".
Chief Project Scientist of the Centre's System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) Gufran Beig said it would lead to a reduction in Vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT).
It is an aggregate estimate of the distance travelled by vehicles and the principle unit of measurement to assess road traffic volume.