My New Year Resolution


When New Year comes by, everyone plans to make a resolution. And many like to talk about it.

I was thinking what should I decide that will reduce my  present mess in life, reduce work entropy and bring better health and peace of mind. My wife pointed to me a chart as shown below “Do something you can and do that you badly need to do – such as losing weight” She said


(taken from )

I did not find this list exciting. This is all simple stuff I told her which anyone can do. Let me think differently and about sustainability I said.

But instead of deciding by myself, I thought I better ask people around first. Their New Year resolutions will give me ideas.

On December 31st, when the doorbell rang early morning. I opened the door and I found Raju, my usual newspaper boy. I asked Raju about his New Year resolution.

“Saab, I am a small guy” He said.  “I don’t understand this resolution part – but if you ask me, I would not like to deliver newspapers that carry the “bad news”. It’s terrible to wake people up in the morning with something sad and depressing. And in your case Saab, I will certainly not deliver newspaper that carries news about the pollution and corruption where names of some of your friends in the industry and the Government are cited. I know reading this news will hurt you badly”. I thought Raju was right. Many of my friends were engaged in “unsustainable” activities and still were my friends.

When he left, I realized that I will need to find a new job for Raju as most of the newspapers today give only the bad news. They keep repeating news about air pollution in Delhi, noise made during Diwali, Effluents in Mithi River in Mumbai etc. and make us so insensitive about the challenges we face! I wish there was someone from the media resolving to publish only a “good news” newspaper! Won’t it be nice if we could read News that could inspire? Then it becomes worth to pay for the news!


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I got into the car with my driver Ganesh. I asked him about his New Year resolution. Well Sir, he said, I would like to drive an eco-friendly car. A true environmentalist like you cannot drive this diesel driven Skoda and I really feel ashamed. I have heard about Toyota Prius – world’s first mass produced hybrid car that runs on petrol and electricity. Sir, please buy this car. Let us make this resolution for 2016”

I explained to Ganesh that Toyota Prius costs 3.2 million Indian Rs as against Skoda that costs only half of this price. We will make this resolution for 2017 and drive Prius when we will attend public meetings to show off- I assured him “Hopefully by then the price of hybrid cars will fall”. Ganesh was disappointed to see that I did not value his advice on sustainability.


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I reached my office and called my secretary Kermeene for a dictation. After I finished, I asked her to order a plate of Patrani Machhi from Jimmy Boy for lunch. What’s your New Year resolution Kermeene?  I asked


(taken from – dont miss the lunch here!)

Oh I have decided to become a Veggie from January 1, Kermeene announced. When she saw my startled face, she said “Sir, Have you read the article “Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Green to Go Veggie?” See ). Being your Secretary, I thought I must do my bit too towards “green” and for the environment

I thought of telling her not to trust claims made by such articles.

But Kermeene continued “Sir, by the way, I would not from tomorrow order any non-veg food for you too. I want you to follow vegetarianism like me for the interest of this planet’s sustainability. Hope this will be OK with you”

I explained to Kermeene, that while she is free to have her own Veggie resolution to protect the planet she should not indulge in upsetting my day to day life. How can I miss the box lunch of mutton biryani from Karims in Bandra and Tiger Prawns from Excellencee on the Mint Street? Talking about sustainability is different from putting sustainability into practice. I saw some disappointment on Kermeene’s face.  I thought I probably lost her respect.

We had a group meeting in the afternoon with an agenda on Sustainability Reporting. Three of my senior colleagues attended this meeting who had flown in from Delhi, Chennai and Ahmedabad.

When we had a smoking break in between, I asked my colleague from Ahmedabad about his New Year resolution. He said that he will not travel in 2016 by airplane. “No air travel anymore except when on holidays” he said. I want to reduce carbon footprint of the company. You know we will soon have a bullet train between Ahmedabad and Mumbai – thanks to our PM’s recent meeting with the Japanese Premier) and so I will prefer to ride on the bullet train instead.

I thought that this resolution was great as it will cut down our travel costs apart from emissions. I changed my mind however when this colleague said that he will arrive one day earlier for the meetings and book a room in Taj President. I realized then that “up” and “down” flights would be cheaper. In fact, the net carbon footprint of this journey could be even higher given the carbon emissions resulting from night stay Taj (with the air conditioner guzzling) and accounting for the embodied energy spent on the food and drinks there. Sometimes life cycle analyses (LCA) can be rather telling and dissuade to let you do anything different – I realized. LCA is such a cheeky tool that you can prove what you want by choosing cleverly the system boundaries of the analyses.

In the evening, there was a Seminar followed by dinner at the Oberoi that I went to attend. Hon Union Minister of Railways Mr. Suresh Prabhu was to address the participants. Before his speech, I bumped into Environmentalists Deepak Apte and Rishi Agarwal “Friends, what are your New Year resolutions” I asked. Both of them said that their New Year resolution was to stall the Coastal road and the Trans Harbor Sea link projects.  “These two projects in their present form will be a disaster to Mumbai”.They said this so loudly that CM Phadnavis sitting on the round table in the first row could clearly hear.  (May be that was the idea)

But I don’t know whether the CM actually heard. Perhaps his New Year resolution was to commence these two very projects. We mumbaikars do not have time enough or sensitivity to understand importance of the mangroves that protect us or the migratory flamingos around Sewri that provide a joy to our eyes.

After Mr Suresh Prabhu delivered his address, I met him and asked about his New Year resolution. A very clever man that he is, he said “I don’t have any personal resolution as my life is now public, But I have resolution for my Ministry. From January 1, 2016, Indian Railways will get green. All railway coaches will now be painted in green to start with” When he saw my startled  face, he smiled and said that he was only joking. He explained that there were many items in the agenda like bio-toilets, solar powered canteens, monitoring and controlling indoor air quality in the AC coaches and putting the CO2 concentrations on display”. “Thank God Sir you were only joking. I said But I am sure one of the earlier Railway Ministers would have just done that i.e. painting the coaches green!

I liked Mr Prabhus idea on monitoring indoor air quality in AC coaches – we simply don’t know today what is the air quality we are breathing at night on the long distance trains! Ignorance is often a bliss.

Finally, I spoke about the New Year resolution to my Professor friend. He was busy examining a recently launched app on iOS called Strides. “It’s not important to know what you have resolved, key is to know whether you are actually implanting your resolution” He said this in his characteristic serious tone. Strides is an elegantly designed app, flexible enough to help track multiple goals and it has built-in templates to help you meditate, save money, lose weight and so on. You type in the goal’s name, enter data about your target (like a dollar value to save, or target weight to achieve), select a meaningful time scale, then set up regular alerts and reminders. Strides shows all of the goals on a dashboard with an at-a-glance indicator. To log your progress, tap the goal’s checkmark in the dashboard. Selecting the goal’s name takes you to a page that shows your historical progress, as well as statistics like the number of days you have kept up with your resolution and your percentage success rate so far. The app is free and runs on iOS only.

(Visit to know more about Strides) is another goal-tracking and habit-forming app that’s free for both iOS and Android. This app has a social networking aspect that lets people share their progress toward goals with a community and earn praise, as well as being able to ask other users for advice. You can also use the app to find and hire a real-life coach to keep you motivated.

“I am working on these apps to set up a Sustainability based New Year Resolution Dashboard” Professor said. A blend of and strides seems promising to get people on the sustainability track. Our PM will be talking about this new app during Mann ki Baat (See tonight requesting all to download and use.

Wow, this will surely transform India. Imagine nearly billion of us pledging New Year Resolution towards this planets sustainability. I congratulated the Professor.

When I returned home, my wife asked me “so what did you decide for the New Year”.

I said “Let me get back to your standard list of resolutions”. With so many people pledging on sustainability, I don’t think I need to do much – I would rather focus on reducing my weight”

My wife wholeheartedly supported this simple New Year resolution!

You may like to read blog of Dr Ajit Ranade (See )

Cover page sourced from×400.jpg



The “Supreme” Pollution Control Board


The other day, I went across to see Member Secretary of the Maharashtra State Pollution  Control Board (SPCB) in Mumbai. The Board entrance looked different. The Board now  carried a new title ‘The Supreme Pollution Control Board of Maharashtra’. I was surprised to see the change.

When I saw the Member Secretary, he said that such a change has been done all across the  country. All SPCBs are now SPCBs with ‘S’ as Supreme.

I knew my Professor friend must have had a contribution in this change. After all, he is the Secret Advisor (SA) to Minister Prakash Javadekar. I called him up and we went to our usual coffee shop.

“Prasad,” the Professor said. “You have to realize that today environmental governance in  his country is driven more by the Judiciary and less by institutions like the Pollution  Control Boards (PCBs). There have been serious lapses regarding timely and  comprehensive monitoring and enforcement at the end of PCBs. This has caused significant environmental damage and with no environmental justice done especially to those affected. The polluters, which include not just industries but also municipalities, are not behaving responsibly. So those affected are moving to courts and filing petitions,  demanding justice. The courts seem to be responding faster than the PCBs. They are not just giving directions but the special courts like the National Green Tribunal (NGT) are pulling up the PCBs for lax performance”

I said “So we seem to have two parallel ‘regulators’ so to say. One regulator like PCB who is  upposed to act – but does not seem to be doing so; and the second i.e. judiciary who is  not supposed to be the regulator, acts.”

“Precisely the reason”, the Professor lighted his cigar. “I therefore advised the Minister to appoint retired judges and lawyers as Chairmen and Member Secretaries of the PCBs and change the name. This will reduce the load on the Judiciary as these retired judges will probably behave as if they are still acting! “

The role of the Indian Supreme Court may be explained quoting the views of Professor S.P.  Sathe and Professor Upendra Baxi, two leading academics who have extensively written on the role of judiciary in India. Professor Sathe has analyzed the transformation of the Indian Supreme Court ‘from a positivist court into an activist court’. Professor Upendra  Baxi, who has often supported judicial activism in India, has also said that the ‘Supreme Court of India’ has become the ‘Supreme Court for Indians’. Many observers of the Indian Supreme Court including Professor Sathe and Baxi have rightly opined that the Indian Supreme Court is one of the strongest courts of the world. (Taken from Principles of International Environmental Law and Judicial Response in India, Shailendra Kumar Gupta, Sr. Lecturer, Faculty of Law, B.H.U., Varanasi, India @’l%20Envt’l%20_Law_Corrected_on.doc)

“It’s not just the change in the name – I have also introduced key changes in the organization,” the Professor continued. All PCB staff will now wear a ’lawyer-like dress’ to bring in a courtroom like atmosphere. The industry representatives when visiting the ‘S’PCB office will now shudder to see a lawyer-like environmental scientist or engineer and the gravity and seriousness of the situation will register itself. All PCB staff will be trained on environmental law and speak in a ‘complex’ language like lawyers do and use phrases like ‘notwithstanding, not limited to’ etc… Do you know that most technical staff of the PCBs are not trained adequately in environmental law which they are expected to implement!


New inductees at the “S” PCBs

(taken from

“That’s quite shocking, Professor,” I said. “But what about the retired judges? How will  they handle environmental matters, especially the technical details?”

“Oh, I have already thought of this. For the Member Secretary (MS) there will be a  Technical Secretary (TS) on of the same lines as the NGT. The NGT has Expert Members who provide technical support. For the ‘S’ PCBs, TS will be the expert and will discharge in a similar function.”

“But still, I have asked the MS and Chairmen to undergo a basic course on Environmental  Management,” the Professor continued. “These retired judges will be exposed to new and balanced management strategies apart from the usual directions such as closure, phase  outs and compensations that they are accustomed to give. This training course will also cover understanding of the basic technical terms i.e. BOD is Biochemical Oxygen Demand  and not Board of Directors etc.”

“Surely you are joking Professor. Everyone in the country today knows what BOD is,  thanks to the widelyknown failure of the Ganga Action Plan,” I said. The Professor did not like my comment.

But your point on compensation brings me to a question that often remains unanswered, I continued.

“How does one decide on arriving at the fines or economic evaluation of the damage  caused due to unchecked pollution? And how does one apportion the compensation when multiple polluters are involved? Do you see a need for MoEFCC or CPCB to establish a  national framework to assess the damage (i.e. cost of inaction)? Often damage assessment is carried out on an ad-hoc basis or based on shakey assumptions and the results are not realistic or consistent. Further, the basis of calculations is often not shared with stakeholders to ensure agreement as well as transparency”

“The important point is,” the Professor said lighting his second cigar. “Scientific damage  assessment is very important and relevant to our case, as in India we tend to let the damage happen first and then approach the Judiciary for environmental justice. Preventive approaches are only talked about in seminars and rarely practiced. I am therefore thinking of adding a position of Environmental Economist at the ‘S’PCBs.”

“You are very thoughtful professor,” I said. “Why don’t you create such a position at the NGT itself?”

Hmmm said the Professor.

“Please add a position of Social Scientist too,” I pleaded. “What is environment without a social dimension?”

“On the NGT,” I added, “I just came across an interesting statistic on the performance of NGT in India. See the paper National Green Tribunal and Environmental Justice in India by Swapan Kumar Patra and V Krishna, published @ This paper presents analyses of data from the NGT website. It reports that number of cases judged by NGT have increased from 37 (May-December 2011) to 97 (July-December, 2013) totaling 318 judgments. Out of these, 50% of the judgments came from 4 States alone – Tamil Nadu, Assam, Maharashtra and Karnataka. States with development projects on hydropower and minerals strangely are in the middle. A large number of judgments have been given related to Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ).”

“Interesting statistics,” the Professor said. “We should use such studies to produce a  ‘Heat Map’ for India. The FDI in these states may get influenced if such statistics are  revealed on a quarterly basis. Who would like to get into a ’hot potato’ situation? Simply avoid these four states.”

“You are right Professor,” “I think we should ask the new ‘S’PCBs to report not just the consents filed or approved, but also the consents rejected. This number is surely going to increase with this ‘S’ transformation. It will further warm up the heat map you are
contemplating,” I said in closing, while settling the bill.

The Professor smiled.

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I would highly recommend the paper by Mahajan Niyati, Graduate School of Social Sciences, Waseda University, Tokyo, JAPAN captioned Judicial Activism for Environment Protection in India. Available online at: I have quoted the observations he made in his abstract below:

“The Supreme Court and High Court have worked from case to case for making  environment as a fundamental right and then extending its meaning to right for  compensation, clean water and air. The closure of limestone quarries in UP, halting of  polluting tanneries along the Ganges river, the introduction of the principle of Absolute Liability for hazardous firms are some of the landmark decisions. In response to the  court’s order different rules and policy changes have been developed such as CNG Policy in Delhi, Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules and Karnataka Municipal (Amendment) Act. However, the effectiveness of judicial activism in bringing about the  social transformation is questionable. Although, the judiciary is able to form some strong  foundation for environmental protection, but the developments brought about by judicial activism have been proven insufficient to bring satisfactory outcomes.”




Creative Fusion

Left and right brain showing different functions


The subject of environment could perhaps be best understood and communicated when there is a fusion with art. If we want to enjoy a 3600 learning of topic such as environment and sustainability, that touches and influences our lives, then we must be creative, unorthodox and should be willing to experiment. We need to brew and blend our communication.

How can you teach subjects like ecology in a classroom with concrete walls and ceiling full of artificial lights? I recall few lectures on Human Ecology that were delivered by Professor Indira Mahadevan in 1975 under a tree on the campus of IIT Bombay. This style of teaching in the open and in the natural environment was rather new to everybody – to us as students as well as to the passers-by. People walking around used to be often amused or sometimes even join the “lecture”! Why not?

During the lecture (which was more of a conversation), dry leaves would fall (and sometimes even the crow shit!), or the raindrops would drizzle to moisten our heads. We used to feel that we were “living” the lecture. Learning in the natural sunlight with a gentle breeze and with faint fragrance of flowers, made us understand the importance of eco-systems much better. So that was the right setting to learn. Many of us don’t experiment such sessions today.

In 1990, I was invited by the students of Erasmus University in Rotterdam to deliver some sessions on Pollution and Poverty Nexus – Case of India. The students had organized a large lounge that had a long wooden table with tall stools. The room had dim lights and walls were damp with old paintings. Freshly brewed beer was generously served around that had oaky aroma.

I spoke extempore and the students flocked around me, all crowded, some sitting on the floor. They listened patiently with eyes focused on me. Once I was done, a student got up and played on a box guitar “Let it be” by John Lennon. He did it so very softly. A girl who had recently visited India played Anando Shankar’s famous number “Snow Flower” on a long brass flute.  The sound of the flute was sharp and deeply penetrating. Was it done impromptu or by design? – I do not know. But all this inspired me to speak more as if it was my further reflection or more of an afterthought. When I finished this second round, many students told me that this part of my expression was more from the bottom of my heart, rather candid but very delicately put at the same time. Certainly the music in the interlude had influenced me and had clearly made the difference.

Street art, apart from serving as a beautiful decoration, can be a powerful platform for reaching the public and drawing our attention to certain issues. Graffiti is gaining more and more popularity in urban communications. Dr. Love, one of the famous Georgian artists is known as the crusader of communicating on urban air pollution. The artist has expressed his protest toward air pollution in the city through his paintings. Air pollution in cities is quite an important issue nowadays, since more and more green areas have disappeared and substituted with buildings. Moreover, rapid increase in the number of cars has worsened the situation significantly, practically leaving the city without fresh air. Many have appreciated Love’s work to confront air pollution as well as to make our society think about the problem through his art. See Artists in Delhi could take inspiration from the graffiti of Dr Love.

Dr Love artwork inline1

Dr Love’s graffiti above – a hospital patient receiving oxygen from a tree – was part of the three-day Upfest Festival in Bristol, UK. To illustrate the growing global problem of air pollution, Dr. Love painted the piece in his typical stencil style but added moss to give additional texture to his artwork. See –

In July, 1969, photographer Mark Edwards, was lost on the edge of the Sahara desert, and was rescued by a Tuareg nomad. This changed Mark’s life. Bob Dylan’s songs “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”: “sad forests”, “dead oceans”, “where the people are many and their hands are all empty” had led a touching impression to the World. The World seemed to be on the fire.

Edwards thought of illustrating each line of the Hard Rain song. In the years that followed, Mark traveled around the world on assignments that allowed him to capture the photographs. The result became Hard Rain, an outdoor exhibition, book and DVD that brought global challenges alive in a moving and unforgettable way. See


Hard rain exhibition is an example of fusion between music and visuals. It has been seen by over 15 million people at over 50 venues on every continent including India (courtesy The British Council). It is a very successful photographic display that attracts huge public and critical acclaim, along with the support and endorsement of political and environmental leaders across the world. Mark’s photographs illustrate every line of Dylan’s prophetic song, setting the scene for a moving and unforgettable exploration of the state of our planet at this critical time. Hard Rain puts the puzzle together to show that there is ONE problem: aligning human systems with natural systems.

In addition to poetic and holistic interpretations of the environment, artists now regularly collaborate with scientists to exchange knowledge about water, air, energy and soil. This leads to a new expression of art. We as environmental professionals need to connect with the artists. But we seldom do.

I did an experiment of holding a workshop on Water in partnership with Mohile Parikh Center   – MPC (see in Mumbai. This was a part of MPC’s project captioned the “Geographies of Consumption”.

The workshop was organized at the premise of Rachana Sansad’s School of Architecture. It  was attended by some of the famous artists of the city. In the opening session, three of my colleagues spoke on Mumbai’s water woes giving the highlights, statistics and the challenges faced. Once these short discourses were over, some of the artists worked on paper to reflect their understanding, their personal impressions and the messages they wanted to convey to the Mumbaikars. This kind of a “studio” led to creatives .  This is how I feel we could attempt  a fusion of science and the art.  Can environmental science departments at the universities do such studios involving students, professionals, government officials in the presence of local artists?

Right now I am working with Navjot Altaf, a famed artist (see on communicating water situation in Mumbai. We are using the concept of pure and impure blood flow in the human body to depict water movement in the city – i.e. flows of purified drinking water and the wastewater drains that we generate. Here Navjot is using images from the angiography reports with the help of Cardiac Intervention specialists. The human body connection here is to message the need for citizen’s to feel responsible to the city as much as they take care of their own bodies.  We plan to hold an exhibition in early January, 2016 once the narratives and photography are done.

And have you heard about River Listening? You should read article by Dr Leah Barclay at

Dr Leah is an award-winning composer, sound artist and creative producer working at the intersection of art, science and technology. Her work has been commissioned, performed and exhibited to wide acclaim internationally, and she has directed and curated interdisciplinary projects across the Asia-Pacific.

Dr Leah realized the opportunities for hydrophone recordings as a measure for river health. The soundscapes of rivers can expose many qualities, including the active marine life. She found that the polluted and stagnant waterways were silent, often with a hum of anthropogenic sound from boats and machinery on the riverbanks. The healthy waterways were filled with sound ranging from dolphins, fish, and turtles to shrimp and insects.


According to Dr Leah, bioacoustics and acoustic ecology have emerged as extremely valuable fields for non-invasive environmental monitoring involving auditory recordings of the environment. While scientists have developed advanced software tools for species recognition, there is a growing need to consolidate the available tools and explore the value of listening to the data in new ways. There are also exciting possibilities to make this data available for a wider audience through digital technology and creative collaborations. Sound is so closely associated with the State of the Environment. I wish the Pollution Control Boards in India work on such exciting projects with the communities and universities and correlate the water quality data with the bio-acoustics. How exciting such a work could be!

I would urge the readers to visit to know about Dr Leah’s work on Pamba river in Karnataka and Narmada in Gujarat.

Last month I delivered a keynote at the Global Conference on Sustainable Consumption and Production in Barcelona. Prof Don Huisingh was the Convener. Don connected me with Marco Casazza, a physicist and a violin maestro.

Marco Casazza got his academic degree in violin at the Conservatory of Music “G. Verdi “in Turin under the guidance of Maestro Paola Tumeo. He also has a master degree in physics from the University of Turin. See

I shared my slides with Marco in advance and whenever there was a “transition” or “pause” in the presentation, my slide showed a different background color. Marco standing with his violin on the other side of the stage then played an “appropriate” piece over 20 seconds. Once the piece was done, I continued with the next slide. I think the experiment worked well and I could blend my thoughts with Marco’s musical reflection to deliver the message creatively.

Recently, Daniel Crawford composed the song, called “Planetary Bands, Warming World,” to trace the rise of Northern Hemisphere temperatures since the 1880s. Four students from the music department—performed the song. Each instrument played the temperature range of a zone of the Northern Hemisphere and was  tuned to the average temperature of that region. The cello tracked the equatorial zone, and the viola played the mid-latitudes. One violin played the high latitudes, and the other traced Arctic temperatures. Each note corresponded to a year lout of the 133 years data, and the pitch of the note represented the temperature. Higher notes thus corresponded to warmer years. One can “hear” the Earth getting warmer through the music. Accordingly to Crawford, music is better way to communicate Global Warming to the people than maps, graphs or numbers. But probably, you need both.


I am all sold for blending art with the environment, especially when delivering public lectures and while holding public events.

Other day I was invited to speak at a University to the students of environmental engineering taking them through the evolution of the subject. I asked the Chancellor – could we also invite faculty and students from the Department of Arts and Geography for my presentation? The Chancellor wondered why. Is that relevant? He said – they won’t understand what you will speak”. And I insisted saying that I will speak in a common language. Creative Fusion is my idea – not a one dimensional delivery of a lecture!

Cover photo taken from

Odd Vs Even



You would not believe that the numbers we use or are assigned to – in many ways, control our lives.

For instance, when I bought my car last year with a number plate DL 8453 little did I know  its implications. According to the recently adopted odd-even number policy, I could now drive in Delhi only on Mondays. Wednesdays and Fridays. For me Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays will not be the days to drive as my license number plate ends with in odd  number. Only even numbered vehicles will be allowed to ply on Tuesdays, Thursdays and  Saturdays. This policy of alternate-day driving will be effective from January 01, 2016 in Delhi. A new year of behavior change, will begin.

[As soon as I learnt about this policy, I decided to change my number plate to ‘even’.  Saturday is a holiday for me and I would like to drive and take my family out, shop in the  city malls or visit friends. I am sure most of us would like to do so. I spoke to my agent about finding a way out with the RTO. The agent said that there is quite a rush and I will  have to be in a queue for the next six months. For new cars, getting an even numbered license plate will now be at the premium]

The city’s vehicular population, which causes choking air pollution and traffic jams,  includes about 2.7 million cars. The new odd-even policy will apply to a large bulk of  nearly nine million vehicles registered in Delhi, which adds about 1,500 new vehicles to its  roads every day. Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) named the Indian capital as the world’s most polluted, with 12 other Indian cities ranking among the worst 20.

In November and early December, Delhi’s air quality slumps to alarming levels, with concentration of PM2.5(very fine particles that get lodged inside the lungs and cause the most damage), soaring to 12 times above WHO’s safety levels of 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

The city gets a blanket of grey thick smog that lingers till the morning and evening hours.  While there is no reliable data on respiratory diseases, most doctors in the capital report a sharp spike in pollution-related illness during the winter months.

The policy of alternate-day driving is called ‘road rationing’. There are many variants of  road rationing possible. Road rationing could be for all the days or only for one or two days  a week or only during peak traffic hours of the day. Further, road rationing may be  applicable for the whole country, a city or for a zone in the city.

Road space rationing based on license numbers has been implemented in cities such as Athens (1982), SantiagoChile (1986 and extended 2001), México City (1989), Metro Manila (1995), São Paulo (1997), BogotáColombia (1998), La PazBolivia(2003), San JoséCosta Rica, (2005) countrywide in Honduras (2008), and QuitoEcuador (2010). More recent implementations in Costa Rica and Honduras  had the objective of reducing oil consumption, due to the high impact this import on their economies. Issue of air pollution was not the driver.

(taken from Wikipedia)

The Paris Story

On March 17, 2014, a partial driving restriction was imposed in Paris and its inner suburbs based on license plate numbers. The measure was issued by the city government in order to mitigate a peak in air pollution, caused by particulate matter (PM 10) attributable to vehicle emissions. Cars with even-numbered license plates and commercial vehicles over 3.5 tons were banned from entering the city from 5:30 a.m. until midnight. Electric and hybrid carsnatural gas-powered vehicles and carpools with three or more passengers were exempted.

Another peak in air pollution affected Paris and Northern France in mid-March 2015. The Mayor of ParisAnne Hidalgo, requested the central government to implement a driving restriction to mitigate the problem. The pollution index in Paris was at 93 micrograms per cubic meter (mcg/m3) on Friday 20, 2015, due to increased amounts of pollutant PM10. The accepted limit for PM10 was set at 50 mcg/m3, and the safe limit or alert threshold was  set at 80 mcg/m3 As the pollution episode continued on Saturday 21 according to Airparif measurements, the central government imposed a driving restriction on Monday 23 affecting cars with even-numbered license plates and commercial vehicles over 3.5 tons. As in the 2014 episode, complementary measures were implemented including reduced speed limits in the city, free public transportation, free residential parking, and free short-term use for subscribers of bike and car sharing services. The restriction was implemented in Paris and 22 towns located in the administrative region of Île-de-France.

In Beijing

On July 20, 2008, Beijing implemented a temporary road space rationing based on plate numbers in order to significantly improve air quality in the city during the 2008 Summer Olympics. Enforcement was carried out through an automated traffic surveillance network. The rationing was in effect for two months, between July 20 to September 20, as the Olympics were followed by the Paralympics from September 6 until 17. The restrictions on car use was implemented on alternate days depending on the plates ending in odd or even numbers. This measure was expected to take 45% of the 3.3 million car fleet off the streets. In addition, 300,000 heavy polluting vehicles were banned from July 1, and the measure also prohibited access to most vehicles coming from outside Beijing. Authorities decided to compensate car owners for the inconvenience, by exempting them from payment of vehicle taxes for three months. A pilot test was conducted in August 2007 for four days, restricting driving for a third of Beijing’s fleet, some 1.3 million vehicles. A 40% daily reduction of vehicle emissions was reported. A previous test carried out in November 2006 during the Sino-African Summit showed reductions of 40% in NOx auto emissions.


In the Delhi case, the odd and even number based driving will not apply to ambulances and other vehicles used for essentials and maintenance of law in order. (Perhaps, these vehicles should be issued number plates ending with zero). Exemptions will not be made  for VIP vehicles. Perhaps, VIPs will be permitted to have two vehicles – one with odd and other with even number plate.

The odd-even policy in Delhi is expected to hit the car pooling communities as now they will have to ensure that the pool includes both odd-number and even-number plate holders so that the transportation continues to happen. So there will have to be new conversations. There seems to be no special policy for exempting the carpooling community as done in Paris

Those car owners who hire drivers will probably cut down their salaries to half as driving  will happen now only for 3 days in a week. This will lead to loss in the income of the city’s driver community and protests will be expected. Some believe that this will lead to driver  sharing models – i.e. a driver will work for one odd number plate owner and one even number plate owner. In the process, there will be savings at the owners end. Private taxi  operators like Uber and Ola will look at the odd-even policy perhaps as an opportunity.  But many feel that this policy will encourage people to own two vehicles – one with odd and one with even number plate. This will be good news for the car makers and  not-so-good for the housing societies where car parking is already an issue. It has also been suggested that Delhi makes the use of the Metro free. This will greatly reduce vehicles on the road and the resulting air emissions. The health damage reduced i.e. savings to the citizens will be much more than the loss to the Metro in this process! It will be an interesting exercise for the environmental economists. Indeed, the odd-even policy will lead to a major socio-economic impact that will need to be carefully studied.

I got a call from my Professor friend who is advising the Delhi Government on such matters

“What is your house number?” he asked

When I told him, it is A-7, Munirka – he said “Well Prasad – be prepared now for the next  move. The odd-even number policy will soon be expanded to schedule water supply to the  flat or a house. Odd-numbered houses will receive water only on Mondays, Wednesdays  and Fridays and those with even numbers will get water only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. If you are looking forward to take a tub bath on Saturday morning for example,  then better change your house or house number to even – right now! The idea of water rationing on this basis is devised to help meet the ever-increasing water demand of the city”.

I told the Professor that in most cities in India water is supplied on alternate days  anyways, irrespective of the oddeven policy. But the Professor was in no mood to listen.

I however realized the seriousness of being the ‘odd’ person out. So I thought of checking  ‘all my numbers’ that define my assets and existence. I decided that I change to ‘even’ numbers on a mission mode. You never know when the Kejriwal Government will come up  with rules such as “You cannot dial out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from mobile  phones that end in an odd number, or you cannot transact credit cards ending in an odd number on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays!!” On checking out, I found that in most of the times I was at ‘odds’. That was worrisome.

While fervently checking the status of my numbers, a thought came to my mind – Mondays to Saturdays is fine as a split based on odd-even counts – but what happens to  the Sunday? Who can drive and who cannot? And no one is talking about that!

I called up the Professor. He said “Good question – ask Chief Minister Kejriwal”

Cover image sourced from

See more on Delhi’s efforts to curb air pollution