India

Delhi 'odd-even' anti-pollution car rationing again from April

Cars and autorickshaws move through the central Connaught Place area in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015. Image copyright AP
Image caption Private cars with number plates ending in even and odd numbers will be allowed on alternate days

India's capital Delhi has announced a second round of car rationing aimed at curbing high pollution levels.

Private cars with even and odd number plates would only be allowed on alternate days from 15 to 30 April, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said.

A fortnight-long trial from 1 January took more than a third of the city's three million private cars off the road, easing congestion.

However, it is not clear whether it helped to bring down pollution.

The local government announced the scheme after a court ordered authorities to tackle pollution levels which stood at more than 10 times the World Health Organisation's safe limits this winter.

On Thursday, Mr Kejriwal said public consultations held on the internet, through phone responses and town-hall community meetings had revealed a massive support for the plan with 81% respondents in favour of continuing it.

The chief minister said a major complaint was that the capital lacked sufficient public transport and promised that an additional 1,000 buses would be added to the fleet by May and another 2,000 by the end of the year.

Like the last time, emergency vehicles like ambulances, police cars, fire engines and taxis would be exempt from the campaign.

Single women and two-wheelers would also be allowed to drive every day.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Several thousand volunteers checked cars at intersections and violators were fined during the trial in January

The chief minister said the government would make a decision later on whether the "odd-even plan" would be repeated every month.

Although the trial in January helped decongest traffic-choked streets, there is no clarity on whether it helped curb pollution.

Authorities said there was "more than 50% drop in air pollution primarily caused by vehicular traffic".

But the state-run System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research showed levels of PM 2.5 particulates - the most hazardous to health - hovering between "very poor" and "severe" and well above the World Health Organisation's safe limit.

Correspondents say that during the trial in January, most drivers followed the restrictions and viewed the drive favourably.

Traffic policemen and several thousand volunteers checked cars at intersections and violators were fined 2,000 rupees ($30; £20) and asked to return.

New car sales are soaring in India, with 1,400 extra cars taking to the capital's streets every day.

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