Third consecutive day into the dense smog and hazardous air, Delhi government has decided to once again implement car-rationing rules for odd and even cars in the capital between November 13-17, a report in ANI says. 

The decision has been taken at a time when the entire Delhi and National Capital Region is battling hard to breathe under a dense blanket of smog. The government has already shut down schools for this week and the Indian Medical Association has declared it a public health emergency.

NGT’s wrath

On Thursday, National Green Tribunal lashed out at both the centre as well as state government for failing to provide a clean and safe environment for the citizens. The tribunal banned all construction activities till November 14 in Delhi and the NCR. 

b’Source: PTI/File Photoxc2xa0′

“Right to life is being snatched from people since they’re not getting a clean environment. All the constitutional authorities and statutory bodies measurably failed to perform their duties. So far pollution is the concern, it is a joint responsibility of all the stakeholders,” the Green court said during a hearing on deteriorating air quality in the capital. 

It also said vehicles more than 10 years, in case of diesel and 15 years in case of petrol, should be prohibited to enter Delhi. The tribunal also wanted to know why can’t helicopters be used to trigger rain. 

While things seemed to be moving on Thursday, the government’s decision to implement odd-even scheme is too little and too less. Various reports and analyses have pointed out the role of crop stubble burning in neighbouring states as one of the major contributors of the air pollution. 

b’Stubble burning in the neigbouring states of Haryana and Punjab is a major cause of pollution in Delhi’

An analysis of NASA images by IIT Kanpur scientists has established that the current spate of severe pollution in the capital is directly linked to the rise in the incidents of stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana. 

However, there doesn’t seem to be much action on that front. 

For the record, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has repeatedly affirmed the need for close coordination between the chief ministers of neighbouring states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to tackle the problem of stubble burning. He has also sought a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh. 

But that doesn’t answer the larger question of accountability. The debate and tussle between various states over their role in the deteriorating air quality is not recent. NGT has repeatedly asked heads and top environment officials of these states to come up with a joint solution to the problem of stubble burning. Each time they have been able to evade it. 

What can be done?

Until and unless the other states aren’t ready to empathize with the pollution problem in Delhi, the problem is going to persist. Question is how quick can the government get people from various states together and discuss the problem. 

It’s also a question of economics. For a farmer, burning crop stubble on his farm is the cheapest way to get rid of unwanted crop stems. Thus, the government needs to look at the problem from a farmer’s perspective rather than shooting down orders on them they can’t comply with. 

b’Source: Reuters/File Photoxc2xa0′

Also, the timing of odd-even scheme is far from perfect

Weathermen have already predicted that the sky will likely clear by the end of the week. The car-rationing system gets kicking on Monday. By then, things will have started turning better already. While the initiative is welcome to prevent any further increase in the particulate matter in the air, odd-even is one of the many solutions – it doesn’t get to the root of the problem. 

Prior to the next odd-even policy, earlier car-rationing system was put in place for a period of 14 days each in January and April 2016 respectively. How much impact can a 4 day period ban on half of the vehicles in the capital have on the overall air situation in the capital, remains a question.   

Strict implementation of other measures 

As pointed out by the NGT on Thursday, the government is required to strictly enforce all the anti air-pollution measures for the welfare of larger public good. According to the Graded Response Action Plan prepared by Central Pollution Control Board, the government has a wide number of options to prevent the worsening of air quality. There’s a complete list of activities under the plan, a government can take according to the each level of hazardous air quality. 

But more than the decision, it’s the implementation that will play a crucial role in ensuring that all the pro-environment guidelines are followed without any delay. Does government have such manpower and enforcement agencies to ensure no construction takes place in the capital and its vicinity? Is it practically possible to stop influx of trucks into the capital? Do people have alternative means of travel to save time, energy and at the same time their health?

It’s high time to find a long-term solution to the Delhi’s toxic air rather than rely on small-time cosmetic measures.   

Feature image source: ScoopWhoop