Pollution shuts down New Delhi

Schools closed, building operations banned as capital chokes in smog

Schools  in the Indian capital will be closed for the next three days, the Delhi state government said yesterday, as the city struggles with one of the worst spells of air pollution in recent years.

“Emergency measures are needed to solve this problem together,” state chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said.

“All construction and demolition in the city will be banned for the next five days.

“All schools will be closed for the next three days in Delhi.”

Thick smog has blanketed the capital for days, with local and central authorities meeting to resolve the crisis.

Kejriwal, who chaired an emergency meeting of the state cabinet, advised people to stay in doors and work from home if they could.

Other measures announced by the government included fighting fires at landfill sites, sprinkling water on main roads to suppress dust, and shutting down a power plant.

Kejriwal, who on Saturday compared the state to a gas chamber, has blamed crop burning by farmers in neighbouring states for the smog.

“One can’t expect relief [from pollution] over the next few days as more crop burning will happen,” he said yesterday.

Exacerbating the problem, smoke released from fire works set off during Diwali celebrations last weekend still lingers.

India’s environment minister, Anil Madhav Dave, who met the state leadership on Saturday, is expected to discuss a solution to the crop-burning issue with leaders of neighbouring states this week.

About 250 to 300 people, including parents and children, gathered around Jantar Mantar, New Delhi’s major site for protests, yesterday morning.

Most of the Delhi residents came wearing pollution masks, and held placards urging that more be done to tackle the pollution and that crop-burning stop.

New Delhi’s air quality has steadily worsened over the years, due to rapid urbanization as well as fires lit by the urban poor for warmth and to cook.

The chief minister warned that restrictions that took about a million cars off the roads for15 days in a bid to improve air quality earlier this year could again be implemented.

The reading for pollutants in the atmosphere is 10 times the World Health Organisation’s recommended level.


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