Every climate debate and action is incomplete without understanding the core of transportation and mobility. The fact that transport sector alone is responsible for one fourth of the energy related GHG emissions worldwide is a proof of its centrality. It is also important to note that for establishing sustainable cities, sustainable transport should also be in place. The issue was taken up by United Nations earlier too during the Millennium Development Goals, (2000-2015) and again during the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals the framework interestingly ensures that both cities and transport take a prominent place.
The current SDG 9 and 11 namely ‘Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation’ and ‘Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’ specifically addresses the need for a sustainable transportation system.
As every government has pledged to support the global concerns of sustainable development, India is no exception to it. Many domestic policies and programmes have been tailored to align with the SDGs. Recently Delhi’s air quality was in a deplorable state with Particulate Matter (PM) concentrations way beyond the permissible limits and the government took a major step when it implemented the Odd-Even car policy
The World Health Organization (WHO) had ranked Delhi’s air as the dirtiest in the world for 2 consecutive years in 2015. Going by the statistics, it is only natural that the Delhi Government strategize a sustainable framework.
The Odd-Even pilot scheme, by the Delhi Government in the first half of January 2016 is one such attempt to draw a framework towards sustainability. The idea in itself was nothing new, but it was definitely new in the Indian context. Going by past experiences, we can definitely analyze for ourselves what the impact has been elsewhere. Countries like Mexico, Columbia, France, and China implemented similar schemes and the results were not all positive.
Earlier, Mexico had implemented a similar concept in 1989 in the capital. Based on the number plates and color, the cars were restricted on weekdays. It was hailed a success initially, but in the long run due to a higher purchase of cars, the situation quickly escalated to a nightmare.
Learning from the Mexican experience, the Mayor of Bogota, the Colombian capital decided to implement the scheme with some changes. Some digits were restricted on certain weekdays which rotate every year. For Columbia, the verdict was positive. Traffic congestion eased, a greater mobility of public transport was seen. It also encouraged the use of public transport, a more rational use of roadways network and discouraged the need to buy additional cars.
While in Paris, a driving restriction strategy was imposed on 2014 on a pilot scheme to check air pollution. Exempting electric and hybrid cars, natural gas powered cars and carpools with three or more passengers, the Government provided free public transportation services to encourage public participation.
The strategy was a success. It reduced the pollution level goals set out and thus, the French government decided to retain the policy, but for a day.
In Beijing, China, the initiative of an alternate-day driving restrictions were imposed ahead of the 2008 Olympics. It was done to improve air quality in the city during the Olympics. It exempted the taxis, public transport, yellow-plate vehicles, police vehicles and military vehicles. The Chinese government had also on prior occasions conducted a pilot test in 2007, restricting about 1.3 million vehicles. This exercise in 2008 was hailed so successful that the Chinese Government decided to continue even after the 2008 Olympics were over. It was this success that inspired the Delhi government to implement a similar model.
Working on similar lines,in Delhi, the exceptions were all CNG-driven vehicles, electric and hybrid vehicles, two-wheelers, vehicles driven by women, vehicles of physically challenged and emergency vehicles which the state government has hailed as a great success.
The pilot has caught the public imagination for now. For the times to come, it is important that along with certain restrictions like the odd and even scheme, an alternate mode of sustainable transportation system and infrastructure is also built. In India, especially with the government focusing its energy on building smart cities, sustainable urban transportation is also an important component.