‘Half-baked odd-even’: SC says pollution rising despite scheme being implemented

Visitors at Rajghat. Air quality remained in the ‘severe’ category Friday (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

The Supreme Court Friday called out the odd-even scheme of the Delhi government, calling it “half-baked” in its current form, as pollution levels in the capital had only spiked, despite its implementation which was causing transportation difficulties to people.

“A half-baked odd-even scheme... either you have a full odd-even and give no exceptions... instead you allow two- and three-wheelers which cause more pollution,” Justice Deepak Gupta told senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Delhi government.

Rohatgi said studies had shown that it had helped reduce pollution levels by 5-12%, and added that the city will collapse if two-wheelers too are stopped from plying.

The bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra quizzed CPCB Member Secretary Prashant Gargava on the effectiveness of the odd-even scheme in the national capital.

“Are we getting benefited by it?” Justice Mishra asked the official, who replied “not more than 3-4 percent”. He added that of the figures for vehicular pollution, cars contribute only 3%.

Justice Mishra then turned to Rohatgi and said “odd-even may not be the actual solution”.

Appearing for the Union Environment Ministry, Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni too cited CPCB data and said the odd-even scheme was not helping reduce pollution levels.

Rohatgi said the actual culprit was stubble burning and that it offsets whatever gains are achieved by odd-even.

Justice Mishra pointed out that the pollution levels will further spike when the fog increases and added “then odd-even will not help you”.

The CPCB official said that the immediate solution lay in preventing garbage burning and dealing with the hotspots identified in NCR.

Justice Mishra said “pollution levels are increasing despite odd-even, whatever be the reason”.

The court also expressed concern over the continuing stubble burning despite its November 6 order to take action to control these and asked Chief Secretaries of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi to appear before it on November 25.