In Delhi, where air pollution is worse than all other major cities on the planet, an experiment has been launched to reduce car traffic that contributes to the poor air quality. The city of 9 million cars is the latest to implement an odd-even system which restricts driving privileges for privately owned vehicles based on the last digit of the license plate as it corresponds to the date. On even days, only vehicles with even numbered plates are allowed to drive in the city. On odd days, odd numbered vehicles can be used. All of this is an attempt to reduce the emissions from car traffic that contributes to the worsening air pollution in India’s capital. But will it work?
The experiment went into effect Monday, January 4, the first full working day of the new year. The restrictions will continue for a two-week period, after which officials will evaluate the results. In an effort to ease the inconveniences commuters might experience, the city has enlisted 3,000 additional buses for the experiment, many of which were borrowed from city schools. Monday’s ridership was half a million higher than usual, and some residents were forced to commute as much as 10 miles in the back of a rickshaw, like the ones shown above. Many government officials set an example taking public transportation, while Uber and taxi rides increased as well.
“Transport may be only a 15 percent-to-20 percent chunk of the problem at the moment, but it’s the chunk we can address right away,” said Bhargav Krishna, a researcher with the Public Health Foundation of India. “There’s a recognition within the populace that some amount of personal action and responsibility is needed to address this issue.”
Delhi officials have been struggling with air pollution for years, and this isn’t the first attempt to slash car traffic. Despite previous efforts, the pollution problem hasn’t significantly improved. Implementing the odd-even scheme for vehicles was an emergency measure, according to authorities. With air pollution worse than ever, residents of the city are desperate to see the haze diminish. Local media reports that commuters noticed a great reduction in traffic, perhaps making the Monday drive a bit less stressful than usual. Perhaps in two weeks’ time, they will be able to report that it’s a bit sunnier in India’s capital city as well.