NEW DELHI – India’s capital New Delhi imposed on Monday restrictions on the movement of private vehicles based on their license plate numbers in an effort to reduce the toxic levels of pollution that have led to the declaration of a public health emergency in the city.
Under this scheme, until Nov. 15 cars with license plates ending in an even number will be allowed on the roads on even dates while the cars with odd numbers can only drive on odd dates.
“Namaste (Hello) Delhi! Odd-Even is starting from today in order to reduce pollution. For your sake, for the sake of your children’s health and for the sake of your families’ breaths, please definitely adhere to Odd-Even. Share cars,” the chief minister of New Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal tweeted.
However, there are some exceptions to the rule.
Women drivers traveling alone or with other women are exempted from the scheme, along with parents dropping or picking up children from schools, and two-wheelers.
As with every winter in the recent years, pollution levels have shot up and the Indian capital wakes up to toxic smog daily.
The arrival of colder weather, indiscriminate use of firecrackers on Diwali – one of the biggest Indian festivals which was celebrated on Oct. 27 – and the burning of crop stubble in the states north of New Delhi contribute to making the capital’s air unbreathable.
Local authorities have also ordered the temporary closure of schools and halting of all construction activity in the metropolitan area.
According to data from the Central Pollution Control Board, in central Delhi the concentration of PM 2.5 fine particles (the most dangerous for humans) was 672 per cubic meter of air at 7 am Monday, while the PM 10 was 735.
The World Health Organization considers concentration of PM 10 particles above 100 to be life threatening for sensitive groups – especially the elderly, children and people with respiratory ailments – and above 300 is considered toxic to all people.
According to the organization, exposure to these toxins increases the risks of acute respiratory infections, as well as heart disease, chronic lung disease and lung cancer.
The Indian Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority declared a public health emergency in the capital on Friday.