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India's Delhi closes schools amid smog crisis

November 4, 2022

The Indian capital is considered to be one of the world's most polluted cities, with air quality breaching the "hazardous" category.

Smog in New Delhi
Indian officials are spraying water in the city to curb extreme levels of pollution Image: Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images

Indian officials on Friday announced the closure of schools in the capital, Delhi, as the megacity grapples with extreme levels of air pollution.

The city's air quality index surpassed 470, breaching the "hazardous" category.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said primary schools will be shut beginning on Saturday, with outdoor activities also being suspended for older students. 

The school closure decision follows an outcry from parents and environmentalists in the city. The smog has enveloped buildings across Delhi, triggering symptoms in residents such as uncomfortable breathing and eye irritation.     

Vehicles travel during smog in Delhi
The Indian government may impose new restrictions on car travel amid the smog crisisImage: Javed Dar/Xinhua/dpa/picture alliance

The government is also considering stricter measures to protect residents, such as a complete closure of educational institutions and the cessation of all non-emergency commercial activities. The city earlier froze construction and demolition work. 

Authorities are also using water sprinklers and anti-smog guns to manage the pollution in the region. 

The federal government has warned the "severe" air quality in Delhi will likely persist until Saturday.

Delhi's fight against smog rides on electric vehicles

Indian government blames neighboring Punjab state

Indian Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav accused the northern Punjab state of causing the smog crisis in Delhi. Punjab is governed by the Aam Aadmi Party, which is in opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party

Yadav believes the Punjab regional government's failure to stamp out crop residue burning in the neighboring state is ultimately the cause of the extreme pollution. 

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann defended himself by saying that his government took office only six months ago. He also vowed to tackle stubble burning in his state and said cooperation between the federal and state governments is needed to mitigate pollution levels. 

Delhi Chief Minister Kerjiwal said "finger-pointing" over the smog is not a solution to the crisis. 

The Indian capital is considered one of the world's most polluted cities, with air quality typically declining in the winter.

wd/nm (AFP, AP, Reuters)