Now India's Airpocalypse Is So Bad, It's Banning Half The Cars In Delhi

Now India's Airpocalypse Is So Bad, It's Banning Half the Cars in Delhi

Last week Milan became the latest city to banish cars from streets to curb its horrible smog. On January 1, Delhi joined the club with its own vehicle restrictions, but the challenge before the chronically polluted Indian city is much much greater. Will a every-other-day ban on cars be any help?

After recording some of the worst particulate matter levels in recent memory (yes, a lot worse than Beijing), Delhi enacted a two-week pilot project that started January 1 which only allows private cars on the roads on alternate days (determined by the last digit of the licence plate).

Although the government has been saying the experiment is off to an "encouraging start" (of course they are), the reality is that the ban started at a time when workers were on holiday. Today, as these photos show, some commuters faced longer lines just to enter subway stations and extremely packed buses and trains (there was even a fake photo that made the rounds, showing what looked like impenetrably thick crowds). But the buses reportedly moved quicker and stayed on schedule because they weren't stuck in traffic.

Now India's Airpocalypse Is So Bad, It's Banning Half the Cars in Delhi
Now India's Airpocalypse Is So Bad, It's Banning Half the Cars in Delhi
Now India's Airpocalypse Is So Bad, It's Banning Half the Cars in Delhi

The toughest challenge facing the city is enforcing the ban, which seems like an impossible task at best. There are already plenty of exemptions: women, politicians, judges, police, prison officials, and anyone who can prove they're sick. Plus motorbikes, which can be the dirtiest form of transportation, are not included in the restrictions. Auto rickshaws are also still allowed, and becoming the alternative transport choice for many. Today, the city's traffic police gave out about 1231 tickets for violations.

There's also some question about the legality of the ban, since automakers claim their new cars meet emissions standards and shouldn't be removed from roads at all (there's also a diesel ban in effect hurting sales of some cars). Of course carmakers will be worried since Delhi represents one of their biggest potential markets: The city adds an estimated 1400 cars to its streets every day.

Now India's Airpocalypse Is So Bad, It's Banning Half the Cars in Delhi

The biggest problem, however, is that this isn't a long-term fix. Schools have been cancelled until January 15 so buses can be used as public transportation, for example. The city needs to seriously beef up its own infrastructure and provide better mobility options, not borrow school buses. And two weeks isn't long enough for people to change their commuting habits. The worry from officials is what will happen if people find themselves inconvenienced in any way during this trial period. In many cities with similar car bans, wealthy residents simply get a second car that they can use to drive on the alternate day. Or they just buy fake plates.

All images AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal



    Stupid, stupid law. If you can afford a car, you can probably afford another super shitty 2nd hand car that spews smoke for the days that you can't drive - problem solved. Except it makes the problem even worse.

      Except that Delhi is a city with a population of more than 20 million. Most people don't have the physical space to accommodate a second car in their homes (a very few people live in houses, most of the city is apartment dwellings). Secondly, India has a law that bans any car older than 15 years on the road. You also need mandatory pollution checks done on your car every year (something that the traffic police checks and enforces very strictly.)

      Yea that's what's gonna happen. This is another failure from the government. I thought Indians are smart and intelligent people. But they've proved me wrong.

    If I was to be locked in a room with a nice new car with a catalytic converter, and a scooter/motorbike from the 80s or 90s (which probably makes up a large percentage of vehicles in India), I'd rather be with the car! Rather than banning cars, it should be stricter emissions laws for all vehicles on their roads.
    This was no doubt just a publicity piece to get the people of India thinking about their habits regarding the environment.

    yep, the future is bright for coal and oil.... not. developed countries are ditching it, and the two biggest developing countries, China and India, *have* to ditch it cause its literally choking their citizens and economy to death. Don't even have to mention the term 'climate change'

      Indian politicians don't care for their people. Not even a bit.

    I wonder if in the future we will look back and find it strange that it was normal to have exhausts and chimneys that went into open air.
    "Really granddad? You all had fires in your cars that just blew smoke in the air that people breathed?"

    What would be a tenable long-term solution? Really, *really* good public transport. I suppose if they throw enough money and resources at it they could put together light rail fairly quickly (as in, a few years instead of decades), especially if they take some of the roads to do it. It would need to be cheap enough and good enough that driving and parking was a less attractive choice.

    If the money was there, some sort of trade-in credit system on old smoke-spewing scooters towards the purchase of newer, emissions-tested (and safer) scooters would probably also help, but that would rest on the old scooters then being junked instead of on-sold, so it probably wouldn't work.

    Not gonna help. Delhi needs to ban those shoddy old buses for good. There's no room for them. Needs to use highly sophisticated environmentally friendly transport buses like Merc, Volvo and Iveco. And not just buses. There shouldn't be room for any cars, shoddy trucks, scooters or bikes that pollute the air. Just need to get affordable version of Tesla.

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