Delhi pollution: NGT okays odd-even scheme with conditions, no exemption for two-wheelers

The Delhi government has directed DTC to hire 500 buses from private contractors to tackle the rush of commuters during the odd-even implementation week

"The publicity you gave to odd-even 2, did you give to destination buses too?" it had asked the Delhi government, referring to the non-stop buses launched earlier this year in a bid to encourage auto owners to travel by public transport.

Although the tribunal approved the scheme, it questioned the exemptions given to sections like women and two-wheelers, if the aim was to improve air quality. "The NGT today in its order said odd-even will implement automatically if the PM2.5 level goes above 300 and PM10 level goes above 500", Rajiv Bansal, counsel representing DDA, told reporters after the hearing.

The tribunal on Friday said the scheme was a "farce", and that it can not be implemented from next week without its permission.

Delhi and its surrounding states have been shrouded in a hazardous fog of toxic pollutants for almost a week, prompting authorities to roll out a slew of measures to combat the crisis.

The tribunal directed the implementation of odd-even "right away" without waiting for 48 hours, in case PM2.5 and PM10 go beyond 400 and 700 units respectively. The information was tweeted by Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gehlot.

The Centre-run monitoring agency SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research) attributed the rise in pollution to the lowering of the "boundary layer" keeping pollutants trapped near the surface and preventing their escape into the upper layer of the atmosphere. It also asked the government why the rule wasn't applied when the air quality situation was worse.

"Reports from DPCC (Delhi Pollution Control Committee) and CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) showed there was no change in pollution level last time". 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. Most of parts of your buses are either hanging in air or broken. "How surprising", the bench said.

"Why shall your officials not be imprisoned for violation of its order putting a ban on construction activities", Justice Kumar said.

Considering the poor visibility in Delhi, the United Airlines on Saturday temporarily suspended its flight from Newark to the national capital. PM2.5 and PM10 levels have also come down.

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