Air pollution in New Delhi has reached its worst levels this year, prompting the Indian government to legislate for a two-week rationing of private car usage. Levels of hazardous particles in the air are well over 10 times the safety limits. It is hoped this car restriction plan can help curb pollution in the Indian capital.

Toxic smog levels in New Delhi have reached a record high with the air quality index peaking at a hazardous 568 last weekend. By comparison, an air quality index that exceeds just 50 is already enough for people to experience side effects, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

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Exposure to these toxic particles often leads to respiratory, cardiovascular and other related health problems, because the size of these particles permits them to penetrate deep within the lungs, even passing to the bloodstream. Face masks were distributed to locals residing in New Delhi, and many were advised to stay indoors.

The car restrictions will follow the “Odd-Even” program, wherein privately owned vehicles with odd license plate numbers will only be allowed to drive in the capital on odd-numbered days, while those sporting even license plate numbers can drive on even-numbered days. The car ban will be in effect from November 4-15. Those not in compliance will face a fine of 4000 rupees (about $56).

Critics are skeptical of the initiative, citing agricultural crop burning — to clear fields in preparation for the sowing of winter seeds in the provinces around Delhi — as the major cause of the toxic smog. A second source of the pollution is attributed to the country’s annual Diwali festival of lights, when millions of people set off high-polluting firecrackers and fireworks.

An air quality study conducted last year documented India as home to 20 of the planet’s 25 most polluted cities. The World Bank has long reported that air pollution costs the global economy over $225 billion in lost labor income and more than $5 trillion annually in welfare costs.

This is not the first time India implemented a car restriction program; it did so in 2016. Even then, it was a controversial strategy. It therefore remains to be seen whether the “Odd-Even” program will prove to be effective.

Via The Guardian

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