New Delhi: The Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) on Wednesday recommended to the pollution watchdog Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that it should implement either the odd-even scheme or impose a complete ban on non-CNG private vehicles if the air pollution level in Delhi increases again.

The recommendation was made by the chairman of the Supreme Court-appointed authority, Bhure Lal. Meanwhile, the CPCB said that the additional steps, including the complete ban on non-CNG private vehicles, should be “deliberated” by the EPCA, which is a larger body.

In the letter to the CPCB, the EPCA said, “SC directed for vehicle sticker scheme which would identify vehicles by fuel type/age.But this scheme hasn’t been implemented by the government.”

The development came on a day when Delhi’s air quality ‘improved significantly’ since Diwali as overnight rains washed away larger pollutants. The air quality in the city on Wednesday was recorded to be in  ‘poor’ category with an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 293.

It may be noted that a few days before, Lal had written to chief secretaries of Delhi and neighbouring states, asking them to consider a ban on private vehicles barring those running on CNG.

In a letter to CPCB member secretary Prashant Gargava, Lal said all cities, which have similar emergency plans ‘like Paris or Beijing’ include restrictions on private vehicles, which is done by either number plate or by fuel type or its age claiming that vehicles contribute as much as 40 per cent of the total emission load in Delhi and roughly 30 per cent in the region.

“In this situation, the only option is to look at either a complete ban on all private vehicles (without the identification of petrol or diesel), other than CNG and/or restriction on plying by number plate (odd-even),” he said.

“However, please note that the odd-even scheme, as practiced in other cities for similar pollution abatement, is done for extended hours and includes all private vehicles,” the EPCA chief added while claiming that he understands that any restriction on plying of private vehicles without adequate public transport would create “huge inconvenience” to people.

In 2016, the odd-even scheme was enforced twice – January 1-15 and April 15-30 – in Delhi when vehicles having odd and even numbers were allowed to ply on alternate days as the air quality deteriorated.

The odd-even scheme is a part of the Graded Responde Action Plan (GRAP), emergency measures implemented in phases to combat air pollution. It came into effect from October 15.

“Even after removing trucks and other diesel commercial vehicles, which are the highest segment of this pollution load, the remaining vehicles add up to substantial load, particularly private diesel vehicles which contribute substantially to both NOx (nitrogen oxides) and PM (particulate matter) emission,” he said.

Requesting the CPCB-led taskforce to deliberate on this matter and give its recommendations at the earliest, he noted that it is clear that the region’s own sources of pollution are greatly responsible for the poor air quality.

“This is extremely hazardous for our health and unacceptable. We also know that the role of crop burning has been to exacerbate this situation,” Lal said.

“It is for this reason that EPCA for the past many years has stressed on the need for augmentation of public transport, not just in Delhi but in the NCR region. The Comprehensive Action Plan, which is now notified, but still nowhere close to implementation, includes time-bound action on public transport,” he said.