Representatives of the Delhi Dialogue Commission (DDC) — a think tank of the Delhi government — Tuesday proposed that city schools be shut on poor air quality days, following Beijing’s example. The Chinese capital has been wrapped in thick smog for the last three days.
Talking on the sidelines of a partnership announcement with the University of Chicago, DDC vice-chairman Ashish Khetan, told NDTV, “If the pollution levels reach a point where it can cause irreversible health damage to people, we have to shut down schools and markets… and I think it has come to that point now.”
Khetan did not respond to calls and texts from The Indian Express on his comments to the television channel.
Delhi government authorities, however, said this was an extreme step. “Can somebody say that pollution levels at home are better than those in schools? Such reactions will not be of any use. So far, there is no proposal to close schools on poor air days,” said Ashwini Kumar, Delhi environment secretary and chairman of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee.
The University of Chicago’s Urban Labs and the DDC have launched a competition to improve air and water quality in Delhi by soliciting grassroots ideas from citizens, civic leaders, academicians and corporations across India. The winner will be awarded up to Rs 2 crore to implement the idea.
Michael Greenstone, director of the Energy Policy Institute at the university, said the Delhi government’s interest in citizens’ ideas for air and water quality was encouraging. “Usually governments take policy decisions and then identify evidences to suit that policy. This approach is the other way round.”