World’s Most Polluted City Plans Odd/Even Cars on Alternate Days

New Delhi, the world’s most polluted city, plans to restrict the number of cars on its roads by implementing license-plate based driving bans.

India’s capital will allow passenger vehicles with license plates ending with odd and even numbers to ply on alternate days starting Jan. 1, Chief Secretary K.K. Sharma said Friday after a meeting of Delhi’s Cabinet. The plan is limited to those vehicles registered in the capital, he said in a televised briefing.

The step comes as India’s capital grapples with rising levels of air pollution as winter sets in triggering a surge in respiratory problems. Last week the government proposed to bring forward implementation of stricter new vehicle emission norms, a move that is being opposed by automakers.

The country’s second-most populated city had more than 2.6 million private cars registered at the end of March. The U.S. embassy in New Delhi on Friday evening classed the city’s air asunhealthy. It advised people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children to avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.

New Delhi was the world’s most polluted city measured by PM2.5 — tiny, toxic particles that lead to respiratory diseases — with an annual average of 153 micrograms per cubic meter, according to a 2014 World Health Organization database. Nine other Indian cities rank in the top 15.