Delhi shuts schools, halts con­struc­tion to tackle pol­lu­tion

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

NEW DELHI: In­dia’s cap­i­tal an­nounced a slew of mea­sures yes­ter­day to com­bat the crip­pling air pol­lu­tion that has en­gulfed the city, in­clud­ing clos­ing down schools, halt­ing con­struc­tion and or­der­ing that all roads be doused with water to set­tle dust. New Delhi, one of the world’s dirt­i­est cities, saw lev­els of PM2.5 - tiny par­tic­u­late mat­ter that can clog lungs - soar to over 900 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­ter on Satur­day. That’s more than 90 times the level con­sid­ered safe by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion and 15 times the In­dian gov­ern­ment’s norms. The se­vere weekend pol­lu­tion fol­lowed a week of con­stant gray smog.

New Delhi’s chief min­is­ter, Arvind Ke­jri­wal, told re­porters af­ter an emer­gency meet­ing of his Cab­i­net yes­ter­day that schools would be shut for three days, and all con­struc­tion and de­mo­li­tion ac­tiv­ity halted for at least five days. He also said a coal-fu­eled power plant on the edges of the city would be shut for 10 days. The other mea­sures an­nounced in­clude a 10-day ban on the use of all dieselpow­ered elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tors, ex­cept at places such as hos­pi­tals and cell­phone tow­ers. Start­ing Thurs­day, all ma­jor roads in the city will be vac­uum cleaned once a week, Ke­jri­wal said.

The chief min­is­ter also said peo­ple should avoid go­ing out­doors un­til the pol­lu­tion lev­els drop and should try to work from home as much as pos­si­ble. New Delhi’s air pol­lu­tion soars dur­ing the cooler win­ter months, bring­ing health trou­bles to mil­lions, es­pe­cially chil­dren and older peo­ple.

Ke­jri­wal said that a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to New Delhi’s pol­lu­tion is the crop fires in neigh­bor­ing states. At the start of ev­ery win­ter, farm­ers in the states of Pun­jab, Haryana and Ut­tar Pradesh be­gin burn­ing straw from their rice paddy crop to clear the fields for plant­ing wheat. The Cen­tre for Science and En­vi­ron­ment, a New Delhi-based re­search and lob­by­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion, said gov­ern­ment data shows that the smog that has cov­ered the city for the last week is the worst in 17 years. Over the last few years, New Delhi’s gov­ern­ment has tried a hand­ful of meth­ods to con­trol air pol­lu­tion, in­clud­ing stricter emis­sion norms for cars and a tax on diesel-fu­eled trucks that en­ter the city. It has also barred the burn­ing of leaves and garbage in the city.

Ear­lier this year, the city re­duced the num­ber of cars on the roads dur­ing the win­ter months, when air qual­ity is at its worst. Twice the city im­posed a two-week pe­riod in which cars were al­lowed on the roads only on even or odd days, de­pend­ing on the ve­hi­cle’s li­cense plate num­ber. Yes­ter­day, Ke­jri­wal said that the gov­ern­ment was assess­ing whether it needed to re­duce the num­ber of cars again.

—AP pho­tos

NEW DELHI: A Delhi po­lice­man stands guard at the war memo­rial In­dia Gate en­gulfed in a thick smog in New Delhi, In­dia, yes­ter­day.

NEW DELHI: An In­dian girl holds a ban­ner dur­ing a protest against air pol­lu­tion.

NEW DELHI: In­di­ans wear pol­lu­tion masks and hold posters and ban­ners protest­ing against air pol­lu­tion.

NEW DELHI: A fam­ily on a mo­tor­cy­cle wait at a cross­ing amidst smoke and smog.

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