Delhi government calls off odd-even scheme

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal

Taking to microblogging site Twitter, Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot posted, "To encourage use of public transport during Odd-Even, Delhi Government to allow free travel for commuters in all DTC and Cluster buses from 13-17 November". "If 30 lakh two-wheelers are off the road, Delhi's public transport system can not accommodate the surge", added Gehlot.

The National Green Tribunal on Saturday gave its approval for implementing the Odd-Even scheme in Delhi from November 13 to November 17, but with conditions applied.

The state government said Thursday it would impose vehicle rationing for the world's most polluted capital over five days starting Monday in the hopes of improving air quality, as doctors declared a public health emergency.

The NGT, in its order, also said that in future the odd-even scheme should automatically come into force if the PM2.5 and PM10, particles in air with diameter less than 2.5 and 10mm respectively, go above the 300 and 500 units for 48 hours.

It added that removing two-wheelers from the list of exemptions would put a larger number of people under hardship since the city has a "large number of two wheelers". The Tribunal disapproved all the exemptions that were given by the city government during the previous two phases of odd-even in January and April 2016. "This is not feasible to arrange such a large number of buses at this stage", a Delhi government statement said.

The tribunal also issued notices to the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and the National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) to show cause as to why construction was still going on.

During the hearing on Saturday, the Central Pollution Control Board submitted that they had warned the Delhi government orally in advance about the impending problem, which the Delhi government denied.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Ajay Maken sided with the NGT order, saying that the tribunal's "displeasure" was justified. The US-based passenger carrier United Airlines temporarily suspended its Newark-IGI airport flights due to concerns over poor air quality in New Delhi.

At around 3.30 pm, Environment Minister Imran Hussain said the levels of PM2.5 and PM10 had also dropped.

The CPCB's air quality index till 5 pm had a score of 403, against Friday's 468. "But recovery will get delayed by at least one more day".

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