Delhi, located in India, and its surrounding areas are grappling with a thick shroud of smog, plunging air quality to perilous levels, affecting daily life and endangering public health.
Government authorities have initiated a series of measures to combat the dire situation, including the closure of schools, restrictions on the use of polluting vehicles, and a temporary halt on construction activities.
Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor, Vinai Kumar Saxena, expressed deep concern about the air pollution crisis in a post on X, stating that the situation is extremely worrisome. The air quality index (AQI) is typically used to assess air quality, with good or satisfactory air quality falling within a range of 0 to 100. On Monday, Delhi’s AQI soared to around 450, according to India’s Central Pollution Control Board. Saxena noted that in some areas, the AQI reached an alarming 800. He urged people to remain indoors and cancel large gatherings, as prolonged exposure to an AQI exceeding 300 can lead to respiratory problems and long-term health issues.
The noxious smog is an annual occurrence in Delhi, exacerbated by winter’s onset when colder, stagnant air traps airborne pollutants. Additionally, purposeful fires set by farmers in neighboring agricultural areas to clear crop fields ahead of the next year’s harvest contribute to the problem. According to the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, these crop-burning fires cause pollution to peak in Delhi from November 1 to November 15. The upcoming Diwali festival, a Hindu celebration of lights on November 12, is expected to further worsen the pollution haze due to firecracker usage.
To combat the crisis, Delhi’s Environmental Minister, Gopal Rai, announced the implementation of the odd-even rule starting November 13. This rule allows vehicles with odd-numbered license plates to operate on odd-numbered dates and even-numbered plates on even-numbered dates. The odd-even vehicle-rationing plan was initially introduced by the Aam Aadmi Party, which currently governs Delhi, in 2016 to alleviate traffic congestion and curb pollution. It has been temporarily enforced several times since then.
Delhi’s Education Minister, Atishi Marlena, issued a directive to close primary schools until November 10 due to hazardous air pollution and encouraged grades six to 12 to transition to online classes. On Monday, the Directorate of Education reaffirmed this mandate, stating that all classes must be conducted online, except for grades 10 and 12, which have the option to move to online learning.
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The Commission for Air Quality Management has recommended that Delhi and its surrounding cities in the National Capital Region suspend construction activities and allow some public employees to work remotely.