Pub­lic health emer­gency in New Delhi as air pol­lu­tion hits worst level this year

The National - News - - NEWS | WORLD - THE NA­TIONAL

Au­thor­i­ties in New Delhi de­clared a pub­lic health emer­gency and closed schools and all con­struc­tion work un­til next week as air pol­lu­tion in the In­dian cap­i­tal hit its worst level this year.

A thick haze hung over the city last week, caused by toxic smoke from farm fires rag­ing in neigh­bour­ing states.

An in­dex mea­sur­ing the level of a deadly air pol­lu­tant hit 484 on a scale of 500 on Fri­day.

The gov­ern­ment’s Cen­tral Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board said it was the worst this year.

The in­dex mea­sures the level of PM 2.5, tiny par­tic­u­late mat­ter that goes deep into the lungs. Any­thing above 400 poses a risk for peo­ple with res­pi­ra­tory ill­nesses and can also af­fect even those with healthy lungs.

Some com­pa­nies ad­vised em­ploy­ees to avoid ex­po­sure to toxic air and work from home.

The En­vi­ron­ment Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Au­thor­ity, which is lead­ing the ef­fort to tackle pol­lu­tion in the cap­i­tal, said: “We have to take this as a pub­lic health emer­gency as air pol­lu­tion is now haz­ardous and will have [an] ad­verse health im­pact on all, but par­tic­u­larly our chil­dren.”

It banned all con­struc­tion work in the sprawl­ing city of 20 mil­lion peo­ple and its neigh­bour­ing cities un­til Novem­ber 5.

Each year, farm­ers in the states of Pun­jab and Haryana burn crop residue to pre­pare for the plant­ing sea­son, ig­nor­ing gov­ern­ment warn­ings.

Gov­ern­ment-run mon­i­tor Sa­far said satel­lite pic­tures cap­tured nearly 3,200 in­ci­dents of crop residue burn­ing on Thurs­day in Haryana and Pun­jab, which con­trib­uted to 44 per cent of the city’s pol­lu­tion.

Delhi Chief Min­is­ter Arvind Ke­jri­wal of­fered free masks on Fri­day and or­dered schools to re­main closed un­til Tues­day.

The toxic air left sev­eral Bangladesh­i cricket play­ers with sore throats and itchy eyes be­fore their Twenty20 match against In­dia to­day. “Gov­ern­ment knew an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion was ap­proach­ing and did not take sub­stan­tive steps on stub­ble burn­ing or big in­dus­trial pol­lut­ing sources,” said Su­nil Dahiya, an en­ergy and air pol­lu­tion an­a­lyst at Green­peace.

“A pub­lic health emer­gency sit­u­a­tion be­gan at least 10 days ago.”

Ger­many’s Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel urged greater ef­forts to clean up New Delhi’s toxic air, as she pledged €1 bil­lion (Dh4.09 bil­lion) to help In­dian cities switch to “green” ur­ban trans­port pro­jects over the next five years, in­clud­ing €200 mil­lion to re­place diesel buses in Tamil Nadu state.

Ms Merkel was ex­posed to the cap­i­tal’s air on Fri­day dur­ing a pa­rade in the city with Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi.

Nei­ther leader wore masks de­spite the smog thick­en­ing and au­thor­i­ties telling res­i­dents to stay in­doors to avoid the haze.

Four­teen In­dian cities in­clud­ing New Delhi are among the world’s top 15 most pol­luted cities, a United Na­tions study said. Smog kills a mil­lion In­di­ans pre­ma­turely ev­ery year.


Free masks were of­fered by au­thor­i­ties in New Delhi af­ter an in­dex mea­sur­ing the level of a deadly air pol­lu­tant hit 484 on a scale of 500

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