Daniel Susco
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Was the Delhi Car Ban Really a Failure?

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Back at the beginning of the year, the world’s most polluted capital city, Delhi, tried its own version of license-plate car bans to attempt to alleviate some of the city’s suffocating collection of air pollutants. At the end, the effort was hailed as a success by government officials and as a wretched failure by critics and auto manufacturers.

So, which was it? Now, after people have had time to analyze the results and readings of the experiment, the answer is a firm, written-in-stone “kinda both.”

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On the one hand, the car ban did lower pollution, causing levels of PM2.5 particles to fall by about 10% overall (PM2.5s are tiny bits of matter that measure less than 2.5 micrometers across, which cause over 600,000 deaths in India annually from lung cancer or other respiratory illnesses). The experiment allowed scientists to measure the real-world impact of these kinds of restrictions, and also to gauge people’s reactions to changing their lifestyle to limit smog (overall, apparently they took it quite well).

However, there is still a problem in that the pollution levels were still much too high to be considered safe. The Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi has been monitoring government air-quality data since October, and revealed that by December before the car ban was put into place, monitors were recording 400-600 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 particles. The Indian legal standard supposedly limits pollution to 60 micrograms per cubic meter, which is still 35 micrograms above the threshold suggested by the World Health Organization (25 micrograms per cubic meter). That means that pollution during the car ban would have been, at best around 360 micrograms per cubic meter, or six times India’s legal limit.

So, in answer to the question, “Did the Delhi car ban fix Delhi’s pollution problem?” the answer is “Not even remotely.” However, the better question is, “Can the results from this car ban lead to the solution?” and the answer to that seems to be “absolutely.”

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News Source: Nature.com

Daniel Susco is a native of the Dayton-Cincinnati area, and has written on a multitude of subjects. He can discuss Shakespeare, expound on Classical Mythology, and even make witty jokes about Pliny the Elder (More like “Pliny the Rounder,” right?). In his free time, Daniel enjoys reading, cooking, woodworking, and long walks on the beach (just kidding – sunburn is no joke). See more articles by Daniel.