As the toxic smog engulfing the national capital worsened on Wednesday, the Delhi government directed all schools, government as well as private, to remain shut from tomorrow till Sunday, noting that the “air pollution has become unbearable” in the city.
The state government issued an advisory for Delhi’ites, urging them to use public transport and carpooling, stay indoors, avoid morning walks, and not to smoke.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) task force advised the Supreme Court-empowered Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) to take action listed in the “severe plus category” to deal with the prevailing air pollution emergency in the national capital.
The Delhi authorities then ordered an immediate halt on civil construction works and banned the entry of trucks, except those carrying essential commodities, in the city.
The decisions were approved by Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal in a meeting attended by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and EPCA member Sunita Narain among others.
A decision on the “Odd-Even” car-rationing scheme would be taken on Thursday.
The meeting also decided to increase the frequency of Metro and public buses and hike parking fees in the city by four times.
These were part of the measures the EPCA had on Tuesday asked the state goverments in the NCR to implement under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) for severe category of air pollution which might even affect healthy people and seriously impact those with existing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
The EPCA had also asked Delhi Metro to cut its off-peak hours fares temporarily.
Delhi Metro announced today that its trains will undertake over 180 additional trips from tomorrow.
Kejriwal has maintained that the city has turned into a “gas chamber” and its alarmingly deteriorating air pollution has created an “emergency situation”.
The medical experts have described the prevailing air pollution in the National Capital Region as a “public health emergency”.
The deadly haze hanging over Delhi since Tuesday thickened on Wednesday, leading to
extremely poor visibility at many places, even as air quality plunged to more severe levels.
Directing all schools and all classes in the city to remain completely closed from tomorrow till Sunday, Delhi’s Deputy CM Manish Sisodia said the situation will be reviewed on Sunday.
“The air pollution…has engulfed the city. The reasons for this may be varied from stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab to vehicular/ construction pollution but the fact remains that it is affecting the health of Delhi’s citizens,” Sisodia said.
The Kejriwal government had on Tuesday ordered all primary schools to remain closed on Wednesday.
Today’s decision came as Delhi’s Air Quality Index (AQI) deteriorated further to 478, “severe category”, during the day as compared to yesterday’s 448, with PM2.5 and PM10 ~ ultrafine deadly particulates and pollutants, which enter the respiratory system and manage to reach the bloodstream and lungs ~ reportedly breaching the permissible levels many times over across the city and its surrounding region.
Kejriwal sought a meeting with Punjab and Haryana CMs to discuss ways to tackle the Delhi’s pollution situation. He sent them letters, “requesting for a meeting to find solution to crop burning” in those states.
He also said he will meet Union Environment MInister Harsh Vardhan to discuss the situation as soon as he is back from the UN climate change conclave in Bonn.
In its advisory to residents of Delhi, the state government advised them to use N95 mask if going outdoor during the peak pollution hours and walk or use nonpolluting mode of transport for short distance.
“Do not burn dry leaves, crops residue, wood, coal, etc,” the government urged the people. “If you feel irritation in the throat and nose, take steam and do salt water gargles. Drink plenty of warm water and maintain good hydration.”
The Union Health Ministry also issued an advisory, urging people of Delhi to “remain indoors if you have breathing difficulty and try to keep children indoors as much as possible”, “avoid morning walk or any other strenuous outdoor activity that increases breathing rate” and “drink plenty of water and fluids” among other measures.