On November 6, 2023, SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research) declared the national capital's air quality as 'critically poor'. In response to the rising pollution levels in Delhi and adjacent regions areas, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has decided to reintroduce the odd-even traffic scheme for about a week – from November 13 to November 20, 2023. Following a high-level meeting, led by CM Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai announced the implementation of this scheme in Delhi-NCR.
Odd-Even Scheme: What is it?
According to the odd-even traffic scheme, vehicles are allowed on roads based on the last digit of their number plates. Vehicles with an odd last digit are only allowed to be on roads on odd dates, while those with an even last digit can operate on dates that are even. Additionally, schools have been directed to suspend offline classes, except for 10th and 12th standards, until November 10. At present, only classes up to standard 5 are suspended, owing to the deteriorating air quality.
GRAP-4 Stage in Delhi NCR: What is it?
The ban on the entry of BS3 petrol and BS4 diesel vehicles from different states in Delhi has already been in place under the GRAP-3 Stage. However, as Delhi has now entered Stage IV of the GRAP (Graded Response Action Plan), the operation of all BS4 vehicles has been suspended in the capital, with immediate effect.
The Stage IV of the GRAP is the final stage of the anti-pollution plan, which consists of 4 stages – Stage 1: poor (AQI 201 – 300), Stage 2: very poor (AQI 301 – 400), Stage 3: severe (AQI 401 – 450), and Stage 4: severe plus (AQI above 450).
Under the GRAP-4 Stage, the Centre has suspended construction works related to linear public projects in Delhi-NCR, along with the entry of polluting trucks and vehicles, other than those involved in critical service delivery. Additionally, this stage also involves the prohibition of diesel-operated Medium Goods Vehicles (MGVs) and Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) registered in Delhi. For now, only CNG, electric, and BS VI vehicles from other states are allowed to enter the capital city.
A 'work from home' policy has also been initiated, enabling 50 per cent of government employees to take advantage of this provision. The decision to extend the odd-even number scheme beyond November 20 will be taken later, according to the Delhi government.
Delhi government led by Arvind Kejriwal introduced the odd-even scheme in 2016, which was implemented again in 2017 and 2019. Every year, Delhi faces increasing levels of air pollution, reaching dangerous levels. In addition to air pollution caused by Diwali firecrackers, stubble burning in neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana also contributes significantly to Delhi's air quality.