All schools in Delhi would remain closed for three days and road-rationing could be brought back, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Sunday, announcing a list of emergency measures as the city continued to battle smog.
Kejriwal called an emergency meeting of his cabinet during the day as pollution levels remained alarming for the sixth day running. “We never anticipated air pollution would reach such alarming levels. We are not solely blaming crop burning,” said the chief minister.
He announced a five-day ban on all construction and demolition in the city. Dust arising out of these activities is one of the big reasons for the rise in PM 2.5 levels. The tiny dust particles can lodge deep in lungs and blood tissues, triggering respiratory and cardiac problems.
“People should stay at home as much as they can, work from home,” Kejriwal said, adding bulldozers would be used to put out fires that burn at landfill sites.
The coal-fired Badarpur plant will be shut down for 10 days and fly ash, or the fine dust produced in coal burning, will not be transported out of the plant during the period. The fly ash, used in making bricks, lying at the plant site would be sprinkled with water so it doesn’t disperse in the air.
Water sprinkling of roads will begin Monday and vacuum cleaning from November 10. Diesel generators also face a 10-day ban except at hospitals and in emergency situations.
The government, Kejriwal said, was preparing for another round of the odd-even plan, an emergency measure first implemented in the city in January that limited the use of private cars.
Those with odd-numbered plates could only be brought out on odd dates and those with an even number as the last digit on even days.
To clear the heavy layer of dust hanging over the city, the government had proposed artificial rain through cloud seeding and sought the Centre’s help, Kejriwal said.
The chief minister had on Saturday described the city as a gas chamber and pointed finger at burning of farm residue in Punjab and Haryana for the worst smog to hit Delhi in almost two decades.
Hindustan Times’ air quality index showed that the pollution showed no signs of abating on Sunday. Most places in south, central and north Delhi recorded “severe” air quality with PM 2.5 levels between 12 and 15 times the safe limit. Punjabi Bagh in west Delhi and Anand Vihar in east Delhi were among the most polluted.
The Centre and the city lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung, too, have called meetings on Monday to find ways to clear the city’s toxic air that poses a health risk to millions of people.
The smog is so thick that it has left a bitter taste in the mouth and eyes watering. Hospitals are reporting a rise in cases of respiratory distress, with elderly and children the worst hit.
(With agency inputs)
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