Air Clean Up

Why is India’s Top Judge Telling People to Take the Bus?

Dec 31 2015 Comments 0

Earlier this month, the chief justice in India TS Thakur urged citizens of the nation’s capital to take public transport to work. Indeed, the justice even intimated that he himself would be prepared to take the bus, and encouraged his fellow judges to do the same in order to set an example.

Why? Quite simply, air quality in New Delhi is abysmal. Indeed, a survey of over 1,600 cities conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that the Indian capital had the most polluted air anywhere in the world. India as a whole currently has 13 of the 20 most polluted cities worldwide within its borders. Clearly, something must be done.

An Increasing Concern

With Delhi air quality at an all-time low, the local government has finally made moves to try and alleviate the problem. In an effort to improve air quality and reduce transport-related pollution, the authorities announced that odd- and even-numbered license plates would only be allowed on the roads on alternate days of the week. The measure, will which not come into effect until January 1st 2016, should effectively halve the volume of traffic on the city’s roads.

Justice Thakur spoke out in support of the measure, claiming that “there is no difficulty in this. I think this is the bare minimum which we can do… If a judge can pool cars, it sends a message to the people that we have no problem. We can walk or even take a bus,” he told the Press Trust of India.

“People call it sacrifice. This (is) not a sacrifice, this is symbolic to show that judges are doing it,” he went on.

Flies in the Ointment

While the measure may be a good idea in theory, implementing it in practice may be more difficult. It’s the first time such a decree has been imposed in New Delhi, meaning that people will be unaccustomed to complying with the scheme. Police may have their hands full in trying to enforce it, which some quarters have called an impossible task.

Even if citizens are willing to make the sacrifice and take public transport instead, there are also doubts about whether the capital’s already overcrowded transit system will be able to cope with the excess passengers. Tellingly, the Chief Minister for the city Arvind Kejriwal intimated that the scheme would only be introduced on a trial basis for a few weeks at first – and could be rescinded altogether if it proved to be unworkable.

The measure – and the accompanying support from notable figures such as Justice Thakur – are undoubtedly encouraging signs that India is finally willing to face up to its air quality responsibilities, after years of ignoring the problem altogether. However, whether such a measure will be enough on its own (or even be practicable at all) remains to be seen.

India’s neighbour China recently entered a new era in air quality monitoring and currently spends more money on alleviating its pollution problems than any other nation in the world. India could perhaps learn something from the Chinese in addressing their own environmental issues.

Image Source: Honza Soukup  

 

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