Air Pollution

Delhi Odd-Even Scheme: Emergency Traffic Restrictions


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Odd-Even Scheme

Mains level: Delhi Air Pollution Menace

odd-even scheme

Central Idea

  • The Odd-Even scheme, designed to reduce vehicular emissions and combat severe air pollution in Delhi, has garnered attention and scrutiny.
  • While this emergency action has been implemented in response to deteriorating air quality, experts emphasize that it may not be a panacea for all pollution woes.

Odd-Even Scheme

  • Reduction in Vehicles: The scheme aims to curtail vehicular pollution by restricting the number of cars on the road. However, it has limitations, as it excludes two-wheelers and taxis, which are significant contributors to emissions.
  • Two Aspects of Transport Pollution: Transport pollution encompasses emissions from exhaust tailpipes and wear and tear of tires and brakes. Tailpipe emissions contain pollutants like PM2.5, soot, organics, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons.

Why such move?

  • Curbing Local Sources of Pollution: Transport is a dominant source of pollutants when considering Delhi’s local emissions. Vehicles play a crucial role in exacerbating air quality issues.
  • Complex Challenges: Estimating the scheme’s exact impact on pollution levels is challenging due to multiple factors, including emissions from outside Delhi, restricted coverage of the transport fleet, and exemptions.

Prior Experience and Expert Opinions

  • Experience from 2016: A study conducted on the Odd-Even scheme implemented in January 2016 indicated limited success in mitigating air pollution. PM2.5 levels decreased marginally in specific areas but not significantly citywide.
  • Comprehensive Approach Needed: Experts argue that while the Odd-Even scheme can contribute to pollution reduction, it should be viewed as one element of a comprehensive strategy, combined with measures like construction halts, during periods of stagnant air.
  • Not a Silver Bullet: Emergency actions, including the Odd-Even scheme, cannot independently solve air quality issues, and their effectiveness is influenced by various factors.

Assessing Impact Based on Pollution Concentration

  • Air Quality Index (AQI) May Not Tell the Full Story: Experts emphasize the importance of considering pollutant concentration levels rather than relying solely on the Air Quality Index (AQI) for assessing the scheme’s impact.
  • Concentration Matters: Monitoring the concentration of pollutants provides a clearer picture of the scheme’s effectiveness in reducing harmful substances in the air.

Transportation Role in Delhi’s Pollution

  • Contributor to Emissions: Transport, including vehicles and cars, is a substantial contributor to PM2.5 emissions in Delhi, accounting for a significant portion of the pollution.
  • Role of Four-Wheeler Cars: Four-wheeler cars contribute about 8% of emissions within the transport sector. Reducing their presence on the road can make a notable difference.

Lessons from Other Cities

  • Global Precedents: Other major cities, such as Beijing and Paris, have implemented vehicle restrictions to address pollution issues.
  • Comprehensive Measures: The success of such schemes often depends on their comprehensive nature and alignment with specific local conditions.


  • The Odd-Even scheme in Delhi serves as a critical emergency measure to combat air pollution during periods of severe deterioration.
  • While it can contribute to reducing vehicular emissions, experts emphasize that it should be part of a broader strategy that addresses multiple pollution sources.
  • Analyzing pollutant concentration levels provides a more accurate assessment of the scheme’s impact, and it is crucial to view it in conjunction with other measures to ensure sustained improvements in air quality.

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