New Delhi shuts schools, limits construction work to reduce severe air pollution - GulfToday

New Delhi shuts schools, limits construction work to reduce severe air pollution


A man poses for a photograph in front of the landmark India Gate memorial in New Delhi on Friday. AP

New Delhi's government shut primary schools and banned polluting vehicles and construction work in an attempt to reduce the worst haze and smog of the season, which has posed respiratory problems for people and enveloped monuments and high-rise buildings in and around India's capital.

New Delhi again topped a real-time list of the world's most polluted cities compiled by Swiss group IQAir, which put the Indian capital's AQI at 640 in the "hazardous" category on Friday, followed by 335 in the Pakistani city of Lahore.

Regional officials said a seasonal combination of lower temperatures, a lack of wind and crop stubble burning in neighbouring farm states had caused a spike in air pollutants.

Delhi-smog Commuters cross a street amid smoggy conditions in New Delhi. AFP

Many of New Delhi's 20 million residents complained of irritation in the eyes and itchy throats with the air turning a dense grey as the AQI hovered around 480 in some monitoring stations.

Authorities deployed water sprinklers and anti-smog guns to control the haze and many people used masks to escape the air pollution.

The city government announced a fine of 20,000 rupees ($240) for drivers found using gasoline and diesel cars, buses and trucks that create smog, typically models 10 to 15 years old.

Smog-NewDelhi Traffic moves on a road enveloped by fog and smog in New Delhi. AP

The air quality index exceeded the 400 mark for tiny particulate matter, a level considered "severe” and more than 10 times the global safety threshold, according to the state-run Central Pollution Control Board. It can cause acute and chronic bronchitis and asthma attacks.

Rajneesh Kapoor, a lung specialist, advised people to wear masks and avoid morning walks and jogging. “This is a trigger for all types of respiratory infections and flu. It can cause uncontrollable blood pressure and diabetic problems,” he said in an interview with the New Delhi Television news channel.

Ritesh Kumar, who was visiting New Dehli from elsewhere in India, said this air was extremely harmful to people like him because he had recently recovered from COVID-19. ``I have been suffering from severe headaches since I landed in New Delhi from Maharashtra state" in western India.

“What message does this polluted Delhi send across the world?” he asked.

Smog-Delhi-Railway People cross railway tracks on a smoggy morning in New Delhi. Reuters

On Thursday, authorities banned all construction and demolition work in and around the city with the exception of essential activity such as metro rail, airport, defense and water pipeline projects.

New Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai warned people about the smog situation worsening with Diwali, the Hindu festival of light that features the lighting of firecrackers, coming up on Nov.12.

New Delhi tops the list almost every year among the many Indian cities with poor air quality, particularly in the winter, when the burning of crop residues in neighboring states coincides with cooler temperatures that trap deadly smoke.

The burning of crop remnants at the start of the winter wheat-sowing season is a key contributor to the pollution in north India. Authorities have been trying to discourage the farmers by offering cash incentives to buy machines to do the job.

Bhagwat Mann, the top elected official in northern Punjab state, said his government's efforts have cut the amount of crop residue burning by 30%.

According to the state-run Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune, smoke from stubble burning accounted for 25% of the pollution in New Delhi.

New Delhi saw a sharp 32% rise in tiny particles in the air between 2019 and 2020, a dip of 43.7 % in 2021, and a steady increase in 2022 and 2023, according to Respirer Living Sciences, an organization that monitors air quality and other environmental factors.

The city's air quality deteriorated from 109 micrograms per cubic meter to 113.9 in the past year, a 4.4% increase, the organization said.

Associated Press / Reuters


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