New Delhi starts restricting cars to clear air pollution

New Delhi starts restricting cars to clear air pollution
Few vehicles are seen plying on the otherwise severely busy Mehrauli Badarpur road during rush hour in New Delhi, India, today. Picture: AP

The New Delhi government has begun a second round of a two-week car restriction to reduce air pollution that has made the Indian capital the world's most polluted city.

The city's top elected official, Arvind Kejriwal, said private cars will be allowed on the streets on alternate days from Friday until April 30 based on even or odd licence plate numbers.

Similar restrictions in January led to a significant reduction in pollution levels after more than one-third of the city's three million cars were taken off the roads.

Emergency vehicles, women drivers and two-wheelers are exempt.

The World Health Organiaation said last year that the Indian capital had the worst air quality in the world in 2014, surpassing Beijing.

Friday is a holiday in India and traffic was a trickle compared with the usual gridlock that swamps the roads in the capital every day. Schools, colleges and government offices were shut.

Residents said the impact of the traffic limitations would be evident only on Monday when people return to work.

Many vehicles, especially trucks, run on highly polluting diesel. The air quality worsens during the winter months, when the combination of ash from crop waste burned in nearby farming areas, construction dust and the still wintry air contribute to make it difficult to breathe.

The Delhi government last year ordered all taxis to convert to compressed natural gas by March 31 this year. That date has been extended by a couple more weeks, officials said.

Traffic police and inspectors will be helped by more than 5,000 civil defence volunteers to enforce the two-week rule. Violators will be fined about €30.

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