Private vehicles in Delhi will only be allowed on the roads on alternate days starting from January, authorities have said, amid growing pressure to address choking levels of pollution in the city.

The city government, led by Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party, announced the move on Friday, a day after a local court said Delhi was like a "gas chamber".

"Particularly in winter, when the pollution is high, we will implement for some time odd and even number vehicles operation," said KK Sharma, Delhi's chief secretary.


Read more: New Delhi bans old vehicles to curb pollution


In October, Kejriwal took part in a cycle rally during a car-free day aimed at giving Delhi residents a brief breath of fresh air.

According to World Health Organization data from last year, the Indian capital was the most polluted city in the world with an average PM2.5 level of 153 micrograms per cubic metre. The WHO said that India was home to 13 of the 20 most polluted cities on the planet. 

School closure urged

Smog blanketed the Indian capital this week as a global climate summit began in Paris, a reminder of how hard it will be for India to achieve economic growth and prosperity without pollution getting worse.

It is at its worst in the winter months as the cooling of temperatures combines with the pollution to cover the city, home to 16 million people, in smog.

On Thursday, Greenpeace urged schools in the Indian capital to shut down temporarily, arguing that current air pollution levels were a danger to children - even indoors.

"The alarmingly high levels of pollution in Delhi would suggest the need to take urgent action such as shutting down schools," Greenpeace India campaigner Sunil Dahiya said on the release of  new data on indoor air quality.

Current air quality levels are five times over Indian safety limits and 11 times those of WHO, according to the group.

"The availability of reliable, real-time data via the National Air Quality Index is a critical first step, and must be followed by clear health advisories and response protocols," Dahiya told DPA news agency.

More measures

India will force all commercial lorries more than 15 years old off the road from April 2016 and is reviewing how it checks vehicle emissions.

The country said last week that it would bring forward the date by which vehicles must comply with tighter emissions standards by three years to 2019, although it is still behind emission norms followed in Europe and China.

New car sales are booming, hitting close to 200,000 in October, the fastest monthly rate of growth in three years, as more urban Indians can afford to drive.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies