New Delhi – In response to the re-emergence of “severe plus” air quality conditions in the national capital, Delhi’s education minister, Atishi, has announced the continued closure of primary schools until November 10. The severe pollution levels have prompted this precautionary measure, which is intended to safeguard the health of young students. For students in grades 6-12, the option of shifting to online classes has been extended.
The announcement comes as Delhi grapples with a persistent toxic haze that has loomed over the city for the sixth consecutive day. Unfavorable wind conditions, particularly calm winds during the night, have exacerbated the situation, leading to a rapid decline in air quality.
Earlier, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal declared a holiday for all government and private primary schools in response to pollution levels reaching the “severe” category. The air quality index, which measures pollution levels, has deteriorated significantly, increasing from 415 at 4 p.m. on Saturday to 460 at 7 a.m. on Sunday.
Under the central government’s air pollution control plan, stringent emergency measures are mandated when the AQI surpasses the 450-mark. These measures include a ban on polluting trucks, commercial four-wheelers, and all types of construction activities within the National Capital Region.
The concentration of PM2.5, fine particulate matter known for its ability to penetrate deep into the respiratory system and pose health risks, has exceeded government-prescribed safe limits by seven to eight times at various locations throughout Delhi-NCR. This extreme level of pollution surpasses the healthy limit set by the WHO by 80 to 100 times.
A combination of factors, including a drop in temperatures, stagnant winds that trap pollution, and an increase in post-harvest paddy straw burning in Punjab and Haryana, has led to the deteriorating air quality in Delhi-NCR.
Data from the Central Pollution Control Board reveals a staggering increase of over 200 points in Delhi’s air quality index between October 27 and November 3, culminating in a descent into the “severe plus” category on Friday. This marked the worst 24-hour average AQI since November 12, 2021.
The hazardous air quality extends to neighboring cities, with Ghaziabad, Gurugram, Noida, Greater Noida, and Faridabad all reporting severe air quality conditions.
Medical experts caution that the current AQI levels, which have exceeded 400, pose severe health risks, particularly for individuals with lung-related conditions and may even increase the risk of lung cancer.
In response to the crisis, Delhi’s Environment Minister Gopal Rai has called for a ban on vehicles that do not comply with BS-VI emissions standards from entering Delhi from neighboring states within Delhi-NCR. Additionally, he has requested an emergency meeting of environment ministers from neighboring states to address the issue.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has also directed Chief Secretaries of affected states to take immediate remedial action and submit an action plan before the Tribunal. The NGT emphasizes the urgent need for air pollution prevention and control measures to ensure better air quality for residents.
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