Air quality in the national capital of Delhi has severely deteriorated of late. Not only are lungs being affected, the drop in oxygen is impacting brains too. How else can you explain the downright ridiculous pollution reduction schemes currently being drawn up?
One day it's the alternating ban on cars with odd and even number plates, the next it's a blanket ban on the sale of new diesel cars. This is a bit like sawing off your right foot to prevent a heart condition. Yes, air pollution in Delhi is a major problem, but the solution won't be found by chasing down comparatively minor issues with a chainsaw.
A recent study by IIT Kanpur says cars in Delhi contribute less than 10 per cent to particulate matter. Two wheelers, almost none of which are diesel, account for a larger chunk of the pollution, around 14-15 per cent, followed by increasingly larger shares for trucks and buses, domestic heating (in winter), power plants, burning of stubble in fields by farmers and fires used to get rid of municipal waste.
Banning newer and cleaner diesel cars certainly won't help the problem. What will have more of an impact on pollution – new cars that pollute less or older cars that pollute more? It really is that simple. Start getting strict with older two wheelers, older commercial vehicles, older factories and older power plants and then, yes, you will have cleaner air.
Then there's the recent draconian move to ban cars with odd and even number plates on alternate days. This is likely to cause massive disruption to the lives of Delhi's inhabitants. Imagine the chaos it will cause. Those who can find a private taxi (the real beneficiaries of the scheme) will take one, and that will mean the number of actively driven diesel cars will only go up. Remember it is people that travel, not cars. The rates for taxis, now much in demand, will double, buses and the Metro will be bursting at the seams and lakhs of people will be delayed or stranded on the way back from work. It won't be pretty. Eventually people will get so fed up they'll buy additional cars with odd and even number plates. Also that 15 lakh car you've just bought, remember it's utility and value have just been halved: Is the Government going to compensate you for that by halving your road tax? Hah.
I also wonder, will the number plate ban also be extended to the thousands and thousands of poorly maintained government cars with odd and even number plates? Why not? And who's really to blame for the high levels of industrial pollution and the dirty power plants? Who conducts totally outdated and useless pollution control tests? Who refused to provide any meaningful support for real green energy initiatives for decades and decades? Knee-jerk reactions and publicly played out panic attacks are pointless and ineffective. Solve the problem, don't create new ones.