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Delhi Pollution: What we should learn from Singapore

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To put things into perspective right away, I welcome and support any new initiative that any government on the earth takes to conserve our environment. And I do support the Delhi government’s decision, but, in my personal opinion, however much the proponents argue that a strong decision was much needed and issues could be sorted out with time, this is not a robust way of decision making in governance. A step wise approach to reducing private vehicle on Delhi roads ultimately leading to the ‘odd-even’ strategy would have sounded much more rational and acceptable to Delhiites.

First of all, let’s get the fact straight: Delhi’s public transportation infrastructure is not capable of transporting daily users plus half the commuters who earlier used car/private vehicle every day. There needs to be a fleet expansion in both buses and trains with higher frequency to cater to the demand during peak hours, else, most of the Delhiites are not going to make it in time to their workplace. I am sure you would realize how this could affect things!

Second, let us realize this fact which no politician seems to give attention to. We are in a liberal democracy where people voice out opinions quite freely. People have already taken to twitter to share ways they could thwart this policy and the Delhi Chief Minister did issue a clarification on subsequent annulment of this new policy altogether if people find it inconvenient. In my opinion, instead of experimenting this way, the government needed to concentrate on improving the level of service of public transport so that commuters gradually prefer to use buses over cars considering accessibility, number of transfers to reach the destination, total cost of travel, waiting and traveling time, congestion/crowding effects, and environmental conservation (if they personally cared). The government needs to create this atmosphere where people start finding public transport more convenient and voluntarily give up on personal car usage.

There are a lot of ways which could help reduce private car on road. Singapore, the city where I stay, has this policy called as the certificate of entitlement (COE) wherein interested car owners need to submit a specific quote initially to express their intent to buy a car. The regulatory authority has a pre-decided number of vehicles (say n) to be added every month and depending on the nth lowest quote received from the group of interested car buyers, the COE amount is decided. This COE amount is to be paid along-with the cost of the vehicle and is a huge revenue drawer for the government. Another method is the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) wherein car owners would need to pay an additional amount in order to use certain routes during peak hours. This alleviates issues of congestion and a good level of service for public transport on those routes. Adopting such a comprehensive approach wherein the government controls addition of new private vehicles on the road while improving the public transportation level of service is the only sustainable way we could help save Delhi from getting into serious trouble.

Also important measure could be to control entry of vehicles from neighboring states which do not use CNG. They could either be denied entry into Delhi, or be made to pay taxes if they run on non CNG fuel, or a specific quota could be allotted to each state per day so that the policies adopted by the Delhi government are not messed up by traffic from neighboring states.

I am a common man and wish to contribute towards the government’s policy making with my piece of mind. I am not sure if this post would reach any person who is in a position of authority, but I believe this is my responsibility to share what is rational, for the onus lies on each of us to help Delhi out of this tough time that it faces in the present day.

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