Delhi closes schools as government considers ‘pollution lockdown’ over harmful smog


Authorities in New Delhi on Saturday announced a week-long school shutdown and said they would consider a “pollution lockdown” to protect citizens from toxic smog.

“Schools will be closed so that children do not have to breathe polluted air,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal told reporters.

Delhi is ranked among the most polluted cities in the world, with a dangerous mix of factory and vehicle emissions and smoke from farm fires, settling into the skies of its 20 million people every winter.

The Supreme Court on Saturday suggested imposing a lockdown on Delhi to tackle the air quality crisis.

“How will we live otherwise? said Chief Justice NV Ramana.

Kejriwal said his government would consider the court’s suggestion after consulting with stakeholders.

“The pollution lockdown has never happened before. It will be an extreme step, ”he said.

Kejriwal said construction activities would be halted for four days to reduce dust from the large open sites.

Government offices have been urged to operate from home, and private businesses have been urged to stick with work from home options as much as possible.

The Central Pollution Control Council on Friday advised the authorities to prepare “for the implementation of measures falling under the” emergency “category.

He added that the poor air quality would likely last until at least November 18 due to “weak winds with calm conditions overnight”.

On Saturday, levels of PM 2.5 particles – the smallest and most harmful that can enter the bloodstream – surpassed 300 on the Air Quality Index.

This is 20 times the maximum daily limit recommended by the World Health Organization.

Hospitals were reporting a sharp increase in the number of patients complaining of breathing difficulties, The Times of India reported.

“We see 12 to 14 patients per day for emergencies, mainly at night when symptoms cause sleep disturbances and panic,” said Dr Suranjit Chatterjee of Apollo Hospitals.

Thatch smog

The Delhi government has been committed to cleaning up the city’s air for years.

The incineration of agricultural waste in states neighboring Delhi – a major contributor to the city’s pollution levels each winter – has continued despite a Supreme Court ban.

Tens of thousands of farmers around the capital burn their stubble – or crop residues – at the start of each winter, clearing fields of recently harvested rice paddies to make way for wheat.

The number of farm fires this season was the highest in the past four years, according to government data.

Earlier this year, the Delhi government opened its first “smog tower” containing 40 giant fans that pump 1,000 cubic meters of air per second through filters.

The $ 2 million facility halves the amount of harmful particles in the air, but only within a one square kilometer (0.4 square mile) radius, engineers say.

A 2020 report by the Swiss organization IQAir found that 22 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world were in India, with Delhi being the most polluted capital in the world.

That same year, The Lancet said 1.67 million deaths were attributable to air pollution in India in 2019, of which nearly 17,500 were in the capital.

In recent days, the river running through Delhi, the Yamuna, has also been choked with sickly white foam.

The city government blamed the scourge on “heavy sewage and industrial waste” dumped into the river from further upstream.



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