New Delhi’s air attracts international attention and vehicular pollution is seen as a critical internal source of the city’s pollution. So, can innovative policy solutions for managing congestion and promoting sustainable transportation methods help better address vehicular emissions in Delhi? To find answers to some of these questions, EPIC India collaborated with the Transport Department of the Government of Delhi to host a high-level consultation event on May 4, 2023, in New Delhi.

The high-level consultation event was flagged off by Shri Shahzad Alam, Special Commissioner, Department of Transport, GNCTD who discussed the need for evidence-backed policy interventions and invited robust solution ideas from the experts.

This was followed by the keynote speech by Professor Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and Director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), who shared global insights on how vehicular pollution has been tackled in cities with high vehicular pollution and how Delhi can do better. He said, “We are excited to work with the Delhi government to implement new ideas and refine the existing ones for improving the transport system in the city. We are hopeful that the technical know-how that we offer can aid in devising policy improvements leading to people living longer and healthier lives.”

The next session was led by Prof. Geetam Tiwari, TRIP Chair Professor, IIT Delhi who spoke at length about the different sources of vehicular pollution in Delhi. She also highlighted the learnings from the data their team at IIT Delhi analyzed from the PUC certification database, VAHAN online portal, and an observational survey of on-road vehicles. Talking about the improvements the city has made, she added, “In Delhi, several policies have been implemented in recent years to reduce traffic emissions, including BS VI implementation, the retirement of old diesel and petrol cars, and construction of a peripheral expressway for freight vehicles.”

Highlighting the promotion of sustainable transportation and Delhi’s Electric Vehicle policy, Dimpy Suneja from RMI India talked about their work with the government to improve Delhi’s air quality by driving rapid adoption of Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs). He also talked about the Delhi government’s commitment to work towards creating a conducive environment for EV adoption by focusing on three pillars: Battery Recycling, Skill Development, and Managed Charging.

The next session had Avinash Dubedi, Program Head for Transport Development at WRI India speaking on the importance of shifting to public transport or shared mobility. He stressed how efficient first and last-mile connectivity is key to encouraging citizens to use more public transport. Continuing the conversation on how improvements can be made, Dr Anant Sudarshan, Senior Fellow- EPIC and Associate Professor, University of Warwick suggested how changing travel behavior can reduce congestion in both urban & semi-urban parts of Delhi. He shared that given the global experience on pricing strategies; congestion pricing could be one of the ways that can help pollution management in Delhi. He also talked about how the foundations for behavioral and pricing strategies already exist in Delhi.

The knowledge-sharing session from the experts was followed by a panel discussion that centred around the necessity for fresh approaches in areas such as the evaluation of vehicular pollution, management of on-road emissions, and the implementation of net-zero measures in the transportation sector. The discussion also considered the efficacy of citizen involvement in promoting cleaner mobility and the use of public transportation. The session was moderated by Shipra Misra, who is the CEO of DRIIV and holds a position in the PSA office of the Government of India. Participating in the panel were Shri Ashish Kundra, who is the Principal Secretary of the Transport Department of GNCTD; Prof. Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, as well as the Director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC); and Mr. Amit Bhatt, the Managing Director of ICCT.

The discussion that followed after individual presentations and panel discussion clearly highlighted the increased need of accurate data for understanding travel behaviour, need of clean mobility services, improved usage of public transport and the importance of testing new ideas and rigorously evaluating their progress and outcome so that effective, policies are written and implemented based on the evidence. The event that was attended by more than 40 participants representing different stakeholder groups from leading NGOs, Thinks Tanks, and Research groups among others concluded with the message that an integrated and inclusive approach that is driven by evidence is key to combat vehicular pollution in the NCT of Delhi.