Delhi’s vehicles contribute heavily to the poor air quality of the city. But increased private vehicles are also a sign of increased per capita revenue. More vehicles lead to unprecedented traffic congestion, and increased particulate emissions, making citizens suffer. So, how can a city at the heart of a nation grapple with the dual challenge of surging economic growth and environmental sustainability?

To answer this, researchers at EPIC India have partnered with the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) to design and implement market-based policies to target driving behaviors in the city, incentivize higher take-up of public transportation, and motivate compliance with the vehicular emissions testing regime in India through improved monitoring and enforcement.

One of the proposed policy interventions is the High Pollution Early Warning System (HPEWS) which will rely on leveraging targeted messaging and congestion charges to inform drivers in advance of areas they frequent that experience higher-than-average levels of pollution and congestion with the associated health impacts of driving through such zones.

Reflecting on this intervention, Mr. Ashish Kundra, Principal Secretary, Department of Transport GNCTD, shares, “As stewards of Delhi’s progress, our collaborative research projects with EPIC India offer unparalleled opportunities. The dynamic approach of revising messaging and congestion tax based on pilot data not only targets a socially optimal number of on-road vehicles but also propels the adoption of public transit among Delhi residents. The generated revenue will catalyze clean and sustainable public transportation initiatives, including the establishment of EV infrastructure and the implementation of first and last-mile connectivity. This integrated strategy reflects our commitment to shaping a future where progress and environmental well-being coexist harmoniously in the heart of our nation’s capital.”

Simultaneously, EPIC  researchers along with their government partners are also working on bolstering the vehicular emissions testing regime in India – Pollution Under Control Certificates (PUCC) – which will comprise identifying incentive frameworks for both drivers and operators of PUCC centers across the national capital. Through randomization of interventions across PUC centers, such as increased automation and improved payment infrastructure for PUCC testing, the goal is to identify the perverse incentives that currently exist leading to improper testing of vehicles and identify solutions to plug these gaps.

Co-Principal Investigator in this project, Dr Anant Sudarshan who is also an Associate Professor at the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick and Non-Resident Scholar at EPIC shares, “EPIC India is enhancing the PUCC system by identifying incentives for drivers and operators. Through automation and improved infrastructure, we are addressing false reporting and corrupt practices, ensuring a robust emissions testing regime for a cleaner national capital.”

While Delhi’s woes with air pollution have long been a cause for public concern and media outcry, citizen responsibility in maintaining vehicle fitness is often neglected. With these enhanced monitoring and enforcement initiatives, the city can aim to reshape driver incentives, promoting adherence to emissions standards and fostering a crucial public good: clean air.


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