Kejriwal govt orders all primary schools to shut tomorrow as Delhi air quality plunges to ‘severe’ category

New Delhi: As the air quality in Delhi dropped to ‘severe’ category, the Arvind Kejriwal-led government announced that primary schools in the national capital will remain closed on November 8. It also issued health advisories for high-risk groups, including children and elderly and said they should avoid outdoor activities.
Addressing a press conference, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the government was monitoring the situation on an hourly basis and further decisions regarding the measures will be taken on Thursday. He also indicated that the government may reintroduce its odd-even scheme to regulate vehicular movement. Under the formula, odd and even numbered vehicles ply on alternate days. A health advisory for high risk people, including children, the elderly and those suffering from asthma and heart ailments has been issued by the government. “We appeal to the people of Delhi to avoid morning and evening walks,” Sisodia said.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal reviewed the situation during a meeting with officials from the Health and Environment department following the alarming pollution levels in the national capital.
Operating on the lines of the Delhi government, Ghaziabad’s District Magistrate has directed all schools in the region to remain closed on November 8 & 9, ANI reported.
Crop burning in parts of Punjab and Haryana has introduced moisture in the city’s air turning it into a “gas chamber”, following which, the Supreme Court, on Tuesday mandated green body Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) to announce a series of preventive measures, including a four-fold hike in parking fees and slashing of metro fares.
Describing stubble burning as the “main villain” behind the severe level of pollution in Delhi and the neighboring areas, the Delhi High Court said asked the AAP government and the neighboring states what steps they have taken to address the issue. Speaking on the dense smog, the Delhi High Court said, “Stubble burning may be the visible villain but there are other contributory factors too.” The HC has asked Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan to inform it about action taken against stubble burning. “Situation is grave in wake of advisories issued against sending children to school and discouraging morning walks,” the HC observed
As per Skymet, a private weather forecasting agency, wind from neighboring Haryana and Punjab, where paddy stubble burning is in full swing, had started entering the city during the afternoon hours. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) also recorded ‘severe’ air quality in the neighboring Noida and Ghaziabad.
The EPCA has instructed the Delhi Metro to lower fares during off-peak hours for at least 10 days, introduce more coaches. It also recommended a fine of Rs 50,000 to be imposed on road construction agencies violating dust pollution norms in Delhi-NCR. The pollution control body has asked the Delhi-NCR govts to start preparing for measures like odd-even and ban on construction if pollution aggravates.
It also asked the government to prevent heavy vehicles from entering Delhi. “Stop entry of truck traffic into Delhi (except essential commodities). Delhi, Haryana, UP, Rajasthan should start preparations as soon as possible,” it said.
The Indian Medical Association has also advised the Delhi government to stop all outdoor activities like marathons, sports and other activities in schools. In a letter written to the Delhi government IMA national president Dr K K Aggarwal and secretary general Dr R N Tandon said, “All outdoor sports, marathons and other outdoor activities in schools should be stopped. Children are more prone to harmful effects of air pollution as their lungs are still growing.”
The National Green Tribunal lambasted the governments of Delhi, Haryana and Punjab for not being prepared in advance to tackle the emergency situation.
It also sought explanations from the Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments about measures being taken to reduce pollution. “The ambient air quality is so bad that children are no able to breath properly. Why didn’t you not spray water using helicopters as per our direction? You take instructions and inform us day after tomorrow,” a NGT bench headed by it Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
Union Minister of State for Environment Mahesh Sharma said it was a “matter of concern” and added that the man-made causes needed to be removed to tackle the situation. He said while the NTPC power plant was closed, directions were issued for spraying water at construction sites and to stop manual mopping.
Speaking about the steps being taken by the Centre to tackle the situation, the minister said, “The experts are continuously working. The Supreme Court-appointed committee, comprising health and environment experts, is discussing (the situation) today.”
Doctors in the city have termed the situation a “public health emergency” and advised the residents to avoid stepping out or indulging in outdoor activities during early morning and evening hours in view of the deteriorating level of air quality.
The dense smog has reduced the visibility levels in the city affecting flight and train operations. For the second time this year, the air quality index in the city has reached the ‘severe’ category with a score of 448 on a scale of 500.
The city has been under the attack of pollutants after Diwali on October 20.
Last November, about a million children had to stay home from school, thousands of workers fell sick and shops selling face masks witnessed long queues as the city struggled with its worst pollution for nearly 20 years.

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