In a decisive move to combat the escalating air pollution, the Delhi government has prohibited the entry of app-based taxis registered outside the national capital.
The ban follows a Supreme Court observation that highlighted the prevalence of such cab operators carrying minimal passengers, contributing to the city's deteriorating air quality.
“There is a large number of app-based taxis in Delhi which have registrations in different states. If we look at the roads, each one is carrying only one passenger,” the court said. “We would like to know whether there is any way of monitoring, especially during this period of time, that only the taxis registered in Delhi are permitted to ply on roads, as an additional measure to control the pollution,” the apex court added.
Delhi's environment minister, Gopal Rai, announced the ban in a press conference, emphasizing the government's commitment to adhere to the Supreme Court's recommendations.
What will be the impact on commuters and pollution levels?
The ban is set to affect a significant number of commuters who rely on services like Ola and Uber for travel between Delhi and neighbouring cities within the National Capital Region (NCR), such as Gurugram, Noida, Faridabad, and Ghaziabad.
With the air quality index (AQI) reaching hazardous levels, the government has been pressured to address the persistent issue of stubble burning and other pollution sources. The AQI in Delhi, monitored in real-time, has been reported as "hazardous" by Aqcin.
Uber appeals for reconsideration
In response to the ban, Uber has appealed to the transport department and the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, advocating for the use of clean fuel vehicles. The company asserts that its entire fleet of 70,000 cars in the Delhi-NCR region operates on CNG or electric power.
Uber's letter to the authorities argues that restricting CNG vehicles could inadvertently lead to an increase in the use of more polluting petrol or diesel vehicles. The ride-hailing service also referenced a study by Delhi Technological University, which found that four-wheelers contribute to less than 2% of Delhi's air pollution, suggesting that the focus should be on more significant sources of emissions.
“We would like to bring to your attention that every single one of the 70,000 cars on the Uber platform across Delhi NCR runs on clean fuel – CNG or electric, as opposed to private vehicles which run on petrol or diesel which are the more polluting fuels,” wrote Uber in a letter dated November 9.
What are government measures?
The Delhi government has been exploring various temporary solutions, such as the odd-even vehicle policy and banning BS4 diesel cars, to curb pollution levels.
The Supreme Court has also directed the government to control the entry of vehicles with orange tags and oversee the prevention of municipal solid waste burning.
As the city's AQI recently breached the 400 mark, the economic and health implications have become increasingly dire, with Greenpeace estimating 25,000 deaths attributable to PM2.5 air pollution since the beginning of the year.
The government is also focusing on expanding public transportation options to alleviate commuting challenges. With the AQI expected to worsen during the festive season, residents are urged to adjust outdoor activities and take precautions against airborne pollutants.