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Odd-Even Scheme Ineffective in Reducing Air Pollution in Delhi

The Delhi government has rolled out its third edition of the Odd-Even car rationing scheme on November 4, 2019, after the city’s Air Quality Index crossed 500. The scheme that has been implemented twice in the past is aimed at reducing air pollution in the city.
Under the odd-even scheme, which will continue till November 15, private non-transport cars with odd registration numbers will run on odd dates and those with even registration numbers will run on even dates.
The state government had implemented the odd-even scheme twice in 2016 – first from January 1-15 and then from April 16-30. India Today Data Intelligence Unit (DIU) analysed pollution statistics provided by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and found that it could not reduce pollution levels on both occasions.
The CPCB had compiled special monitoring reports of both time periods when odd-even was in force. According to a study conducted by IIT-Kanpur, four-wheeler passenger cars contribute to about 10 per cent of the total emission load of major pollutants PM2.5 and PM10.
Theoretically, by reducing the number of private cars on Delhi’s roads, there should have been a decrease in PM levels and a marginal reduction in road dust and secondary particulates.

Evidence of Ineffectiveness of Odd-Even Scheme

In fact, with limited data published in its analysis, DIU found that at many stations, the situation during non-odd-even days was better. For instance, at the DMS Shadipur pollution tracking centre, the average PM 2.5 level a week before implementation of the odd-even scheme was 103. During the odd-even period, it rose to 174.5.

Evoking Sense of Sacrifice

The Delhi government is making tall claims of how the scheme has been highly successful in the past and is encouraging the citizens to participate enthusiastically and contribute towards controlling the air pollution in the capital. This has worked in the favour of the government in the past as it managed to evoke a spirit of sacrifice among the citizens.
The odd-even scheme appeals to the car owners as it gives them a sense of sacrifice and achievement. It makes them feel they are doing something to help reduce air pollution in Delhi. In fact, when they get to know the facts that the scheme hasn’t helped much, they defend the government by saying that it is at least trying.

Possible Reasons why the scheme failed in the past

Distribution of fake CNG stickers

The scheme is aimed only at diesel and petrol cars. This has only increased the sale of Fake CNG stickers to get out of the ambit of the scheme.


Women have been exempted from the scheme. So are the commercial vehicles. These exemptions make no sense if one wants to really reduce the number of cars on the road. For example, the scheme becomes totally inapplicable to a couple who have two cars with an odd and an even number, as the man can take the car eligible for the day and the woman can get exempted.

Insufficient public transport infrastructure

Often people are willing to break the law and pay the fine to escape the traffic in public transport. Unless this is being addressed, the scheme cannot be implemented effectively.
If the scheme has been as successful as the government is claiming it to be, why is it that it was not implemented even once in 2018. Was the air pollution not a concern then?
In order to bring real change and control the pollution effectively, the government will need to take more serious measures to control the traffic and provide better alternatives to citizens by developing infrastructure and building public transport capacity. After all, clean air has been recognised as a Fundamental Right under Right to Life in Article 21 of the Constitution of India