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Smog shuts schools in Delhi

November 6, 2016

Schools in India's capital city have been ordered to close for the next three days due to poor air quality. New Delhi is suffering from air pollution that threatens the health and safety of its residents and visitors.


Indien Delhi Luftverschmutzung
Image: Picture-Alliance/AP Photo/M. Swarup

New Delhi announced a slew of measures Sunday to combat the crippling air pollution that has recently engulfed the city, including closing down schools, halting construction and ordering that all roads be doused with water to settle dust. A coal-fueled power plant on the edges of the city was also to be shuttered for 10 days.

Pollutants in the atmosphere recently breached the 1,000-microgram mark for the first time in one neighborhood in south Delhi - 10 times the World Health Organization's recommended "safe" level.

Emergency measures are needed to solve this problem together," state Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said. "All construction and demolition in the city will be banned for next five days. All schools will be closed for the next three days in Delhi."

Thick smog has blanketed the capital for days, with local and central authorities meeting to resolve the crisis. Other measures announced by the government include fighting fires at landfill sites.

Women wearing pollution masks in New Delhi.
An advocacy group says data shows that the smog that smothered the city midweek was the worst in the last 17 yearsImage: Picture-Alliance/AP Photo/M. Swarup

Crop burning a major factor

Slash-and-burn agriculture in other nearby states has been blamed for some of the thick smog. India's environment minister, Anil Madhav Dave, who met with the state's leadership on Saturday, is expected to discuss solutions to the problem posed by crop burning with leaders of neighboring states this week.

Automobiles - which contribute to the city's poor air quality - have also been restricted. A pilot program that had taken around a million cars off the roads for 15 days in a bid to improve air quality earlier this year could again be implemented. 

The "odd-even" plan restricts cars to alternate days according to their number plates. Those restrictions were unpopular as the capital's public transport infrastructure struggled to shoulder the added demand.

WHO: Over 90 percent of world population breathes dirty air

jar/tj (AFP, Reuters)