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New Delhi Steers Drivers To Park Cars So Residents Can Breathe Easier

New Delhi officials urged drivers to park their cars and use public transportation Thursday, in a new effort to combat air pollution.

A major road closed for five hours and residents were encouraged to take public transportation, the Associated Press reported.

Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of the state of Delhi, and his cabinet colleagues, led cyclists along the four-mile-long route, on the first of what will be a series of days aimed at cleaning the city's air.

Kejriwal told AP:

"All of us have to do our bit to decongest the roads and to reduce pollution. People should leave their cars and start using public transport and bicycles."

According to CNN, free rickshaw rides were offered, as those three-wheeled vehicles run on compressed natural gas rather than diesel or gasoline.

Delhi's transport minister Gopal Rai, who met with auto unions before the event enlisting their support, told reporters:

"We want to encourage people to use buses, the metro, rickshaws and other public transport so that pollution levels can be brought down in Delhi."

While some hailed the event as a success, critics say the effort is too little to make any real impact on the heavy pollution plaguing this city.

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Tanya Ballard Brown is an editor for NPR. She joined the organization in 2008.