Odd-Even Day 1: Phase II off to moderate start, real test to begin from Monday
New Delhi: The odd-even car-rationing scheme today returned to Delhi for its second phase amid poor air quality in various areas of the city with the real-time readings of gaseous pollutants such as ozone observed on the higher side. The AAP government's scheme received thumbs up from many Delhites who took to Twitter to laud the initiative
An official in the IMD department said air quality has been moderate over the last twenty days although it dipped today owing to pollutants-laden wind blowing from the north west direction.
The real-time readings of SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research), Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) stations had PM 10 (coarser than PM 2.5) as the prominent pollutant.
At R K Puram and Punjabi Bagh, Ozone (O3) was recorded at 200.3 and 174.5 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3) respectively around 4 PM. Its one hour notified average safe limit is 180 micrograms per cubic metre.
Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai, who travelled on a Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) bus to take stock of the situation, expressed satisfaction over the response to the second leg of the scheme.
The opposition parties, however, did not back the odd-even plan and demanded improvement in the existing public transport facilities.
Delhi has an estimated over 26 lakh registered cars as of March 31, 2015. On Friday, the even numbered private cars went off the roads in compliance with the traffic restrictions for four-wheelers.
The first day of the second phase saw roads less crowded as the day also happened to be a public holiday owing to the Ram Navami festival.
The Delhi Traffic Police challaned as many as 938 violators throughout the day.
Those not abiding by the rule are to be fined Rs.2,000.
While opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress demanded immediate steps to improve public transport facilities in the city, former key member of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Prashant Bhushan termed the odd-even exercise a "gimmick".
"Citizens may offer better solutions for pollution, bike lanes, better public transport/BRT, than gimmicks like odd/even," Bhushan posted on micro-blogging site Twitter.
BJP's Delhi unit president Satish Upadhyaya said the "unplanned" odd-even scheme was causing inconvenience to the citizens.
"It is the most unplanned scheme the government has come up with. The government has not worked on improving the public transportation system," he said.
Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken said: "The AAP government was imposing its scheme on Delhiites without improving the condition of public transport."
Around 4,000 civil defence volunteers, mostly young people, were stationed at major crossings. Sporting green umbrellas and holding placards calling for saving the environment, the volunteers held roses in their hands to present to violators.
Around 2,000 traffic police personnel and 400 ex-servicemen were also deployed to enforce the scheme that is aimed at tackling rising pollution in the city.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has proposed to make it a monthly affair, appealed to the people to make the second phase a success.
"Odd even starts today (Friday). Let's all join hands and resolve to make it a success," Kejriwal tweeted in the morning.
Transport Minister Gopal Rai said the public response to the second leg of the scheme was satisfactory.
"As we can see today people are following the odd-even rule voluntarily. I hope the second phase will also be a success like the first phase in January this year," Rai told IANS.
Rai, who travelled in a DTC bus from the Delhi Secretariat to Pragati Maidan, India Gate, Connaught Place, Minto Road, Ramlila Maidan and other spots, hinted at the possibility of the odd-even scheme being made a feature every month if this phase proved successful.
"The first phase was during winters, and this is summer. We will collate the experiences from both the seasons. Therefore, this is the decisive phase. Depending on the feedback, the government may consider odd-even scheme every month for 15 days," he said.
Rai had carpooled to office in an odd numbered car with Burari legislator Sanjeev Jha and Mehrauli legislator Naresh Yadav.
The Delhi government had held the first phase of the odd-even traffic scheme from January 1 to 15 this year. The city government's inititives came after the Delhi High Court last year asked it to take urgent steps to curb worsening menace of Delhi's pollution.
(With inputs from agencies)