Delhi to revive car restrictions in effort to clean air

Delhi air pollution is the worst on earth
Delhi air pollution is the worst on earth

Drivers in New Delhi will be hit with severe driving restrictions for the second time this year as the world's most polluted city attempts to improve its air quality.

The measure, dubbed "odd-even," limits drivers to using their cars on alternate days. The city government first enacted the rule on a trial basis during the first two weeks of the year. The scheme will return for another two-week period starting April 15.

Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced the second phase on Thursday. A survey conducted by the city showed that 81% of respondents would welcome the program's return.

Rahul Vij, the owner of a real estate business, said he was in favor of the driving restrictions. He said that driving during the first two weeks of the year "was wonderful," and traffic was less congested, even during peak hours.

Related: This Indian city has the world's worst air

Vivek Chattopadhyay of the Centre for Science and Environment hailed "odd-even" as a "landmark" step, because it's the first anti-pollution program that actively involved the public.

However, he said the scheme is not a permanent solution. While some people will turn to public transit, others will buy a second vehicle to circumvent the restrictions if they become permanent, Chattopadhyay said. "The idea is to reduce traffic volume, not increase it."

Instead, he said the solution is to invest in better public transportation.

delhi air pollution kids

In 2014, the World Health Organization released data on air quality levels in 1,600 cities around the world, and Delhi was found to have the highest concentration of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers, also called PM 2.5.

These microscopic particles are dangerous because their small size allows them to penetrate deep into people's lungs. Scientific studies have linked these particles to aggravated asthma, weaker lungs and premature death resulting from heart and lung disease.

Cities including Beijing and Mexico City have also restricted the use of cars in an effort to improve air quality. Kejriwal said the government will consider making Delhi's "odd-even" scheme permanent after the second test round has concluded.

-- Deepak Rao and Vijay Bedi contributed reporting.

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