It is hardly a surprise that the National Green Tribunal has come down hard on the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government describing its plan to re-introduce its odd-even scheme (allowing vehicles with odd and even numbers to ply on roads on alternate days) a ‘farce.’ As the tribunal has said, it is an ill-thought-out measure to control the catastrophic air pollution levels in the national capital after the warning signs of last winter were ignored and forgotten.
The writing was on the wall and there is no excuse for the Kejriwal government to have taken no preventive measures well in time. It amounted to closing the stables after the horses had bolted. Undoubtedly, the strained relations between the Centre and the State government also contributed to the toxic smog that has played havoc with the health of Delhi-ites over the last few days.
The green panel also questioned the rationale of the AAP government in rolling out the odd-even scheme when reports by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) had found that the levels of PM10 and PM2.5 were cumulatively higher when the scheme was implemented twice earlier. Evidently, the Kejriwal government was seeking to earn some brownie points after the whole purpose of the measure had been defeated by its failure to respond expeditiously.
There were a host of steps that the green tribunal had recommended which were completely ignored in the quest to control the catastrophic pollution levels. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also questioned the justification of exempting two-wheelers and women drivers during the odd-even scheme despite knowing that two-wheelers caused 46 per cent pollution, as per an IIT Kanpur report. With deadly smog blanketing Delhi and the neighbouring states, the NGT had on Thursday banned construction and industrial activities and entry of trucks. The CPCB has recorded ‘severe’ air quality, meaning that the intensity of pollution was extreme.