Odd-Even Rule: The Final Word

On Friday night, 8:00 p.m., the 15 day Odd-Even experiment ended in the nation’s capital. Amidst great support by the population of Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal congratulated everyone for the success of the experiment.

But did the experiment really succeed?

Let’s take a look at some of the findings of the experiment.


During the experiment, the highest P.M. 2.5 level recorded was 400 µg/m3 as opposed to over 600 µg/m3 in December, according to Delhi transport minister Gopal Rai.

True that this indicates a significant improvement in air quality but Delhi is still far from the mark of the optimum 60 µg/m3 (as suggested by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee). The takeaway being that:

  • the odd-even rule should be applied longer
  • the odd-even rule can only affect pollution so much

The bad news is that most experts are bent towards the second observation. The Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), an independent think tank, said that there is no conclusive evidence to prove that the odd-even policy improved Delhi’s air quality.

Collaborating with the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, the CEEW independently measured air quality and traffic volumes at five locations: Connaught Place, GTB Nagar, IIT Delhi, Mathura Road and Shadipur.

An analysis of the data collected indicates that the average air pollution levels increased in the first week of January compared with the previous week. However, in the second week of January, air quality was marginally better, but still poorer than the last week of December. (CEEW also claimed that their readings were almost identical to those of the pollution monitors installed by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee).

An average PM2.5. level of 306 µg/m3 was recorded during the first two weeks of January 2016. The average level of P.M. 2.5. recorded during the first two weeks of January 2014 was 330 µg/m3.

The problem, as the think tank put it, is that conclusive evidence was very hard to provide for the experiment given the meteorological variables of wind speed, temperature and precipitation.


Congestion: Traffic congestion was visibly lower in most areas. The reasons for this being that people largely followed the rules imposed (9,140 offenders in 15 days, or 609 per day). Metro ridership went up by about 1,50,000 people per day whereas bus ridership increased by 14,10,000 people per day.

However, there was a 10% increase in traffic congestion in the five locations mentioned above. This has been attributed primarily to a 17% increase in two-wheelers, a 12% increase in three-wheelers, a 22% rise in taxis and a 138% rise in the number of private buses during the experiment, as reported by the CEEW.


It isn’t a very clear image then. Some people have blamed the large exemptions to the rule for having failed the experiment whereas others have commended the government’s effort in successfully carrying it out at this scale.

There is also the large number of vehicles entering Delhi through surrounding areas of Gurgaon, Noida, Faridabad, etc. which contributes to pollution and traffic each day. Largely speaking, the odd-even rule has impacted pollution. But to be able to provide long term solutions for the same would require the government to take major decisions on Delhi’s public transport and infrastructure.



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