Smoggy New Delhi to restrict vehicles to reduce air pollution

New Delhi will restrict use of vehicles next week to curb rising pollution as air quality in the Indian capital remained dangerously unsafe for a third consecutive day despite mitigation efforts.

New Delhi ranks among the world’s top polluted cities every year ahead of the onset of winter, when calm winds and low temperatures trap pollutants from sources including vehicles, industries, construction dust, and crop residue burning in nearby fields.

A thick smog shrouded the federal secretariat and president’s palace in the heart of the city early on Monday, and lowered visibility in other parts, as public outrage over hazardous air quality grew and the city extended closure of primary schools until Nov. 10.

‘Odd-even’ rule

The local government said that it will impose the “odd-even” vehicle rule from Nov. 13-20 to mitigate pollution levels that are expected to rise after the Hindu festival of Diwali on Nov. 12, when firecrackers are often set despite a ban.

The rule will allow vehicles with odd registration numbers on the road on odd dates and similarly vehicles with even numbers on alternate days.

Environmental experts have previously said that the rule, which has been imposed multiple times with some variations since 2016, has been more effective in de-congesting roads and less effective in bringing down pollution.

“In view of rising pollution, odd-even will be imposed in Delhi,” Gopal Rai, the local environment minister, told reporters, adding that a meeting will be held with police and transport department on Tuesday to decide on the implementation.

People walk on the Kartavya Path amid the morning smog on Monday in central New Delhi. (Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters)

Air quality was “severe” for a third consecutive day in the city on Monday, making it the second-most polluted city in the world, behind Lahore in Pakistan, according to a real-time compilation by Swiss group IQAir.

A cricket World Cup match involving Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, however, went ahead in the city on Monday with organizers installing air purifiers in the players’ dressing rooms and using water sprinklers to reduce pollutants in the air.

Curbs on vehicles are in addition to a ban on construction work for public projects in the national capital region, and restrictions on entry of trucks and heavy vehicles in Delhi, imposed by a federal pollution control watchdog on Sunday.

A smoggy inside of a cricket stadium in New Delhi, India.
Smog can seen inside Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi during today’s Cricket World Cup match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. (Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters)

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