Cars restricted in Indian capital amid air pollution crisis

Vehicles drive amid smog in New Delhi India on Nov 2 2019

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The capital is restricting use of private cars until November 15 with an "odd-even" system, allowing cars to use roads on alternate days, depending on whether their licence plate ends in an odd or even number.

The "odd-even" scheme will restrict private vehicles with odd-number licence plates to driving on odd dates while even-numbered plates are allowed on even-numbered dates.

Officials estimate the new rule will keep about 1.2 million registered vehicles off the roads each day.

India's Central Pollution Control Board said on Sunday the average air quality index, or AQI, for New Delhi was at 494, the highest level since November 2016, when it reached 497.

After suffering from heavy pollution over last week, things are looking up for Delhi National Capital Region, if the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) prediction is anything to go by.

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A declared public health emergency has remained in place in the city for the past five days. New gauges are clearly needed to measure exactly how bad the pollution is, especially for the fine particulate matter below 2.5 millimeters (PM2.5), which are among the most harmful bits of air pollution, as they get through the membranes of the lungs and enter the bloodstream.

Residents distraught over the pollution said they wanted to leave the city of more than 20 million people due to its poor air quality.

You can hardly see the cars on this road because of the smog.

A Delhi Traffic police officer wears a pollution mask and clears the irritants in his eyes in New Delhi, India, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019.

Last week, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the city had been "turned into a gas chamber" and blamed the conditions on "smoke from crop burning".

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However, some Twitter users claimed that the Odd-Even scheme did nothing to improve the situation in the city and credited strong winds and nature for it. The highest court docket ordered an instantaneous and full cease to stubble burning by farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, blamed for 46 per cent of the air pollution.

The vehicle restrictions have been the Aam Aadmi Party-led city government's pet project to fight air pollution.

"The government must roll out a policy so that the vehicles can be reduced on roads".

Following a hearing Monday, the Supreme Court of India released an order which found that the state government, the government of Delhi and civic bodies had "miserably failed" to perform their duty to the public.

India's top court ordered a complete halt to stubble burning around Delhi as a lethal smog blanketed the capital. In the past, experts have even advised residents in Delhi to begin wearing oxygen tanks to breathe more safely.

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