Delhi air pollution: Primary school shutdown today, Kejriwal govt says ready for odd-even

Manish Sisodia said the “gas chamber” situation in Delhi was “too close to being severe” and urged the intervention of the Central government to prevent a repeat of 2016 when AQI rose to 500, its highest possible.

Written by Aniruddha Ghosal | New Delhi | Updated: November 8, 2017 7:49 am
delhi air pollution, smog, manish sisodia, delhi government schools, schools closed in delhi, arvind kejriwal Delhi pollution: The shutdown doesn’t apply to schools in Gurgaon and Noida since they fall under different state governments.

On a day that the air quality index in Delhi fell to its worst this year, 448 on a scale of 500, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia ordered all primary schools to shut down for a day tomorrow along with restriction of all outdoor activities in schools. And said that the government was “prepared” to launch the odd-and-even transport scheme and restrict trucks if there is an “emergency” (AQI above 500). Last year, AQI had scaled 500. The shutdown doesn’t apply to schools in Gurgaon and Noida since they fall under different state governments.

Sisodia said that the “gas chamber” situation in Delhi was “too close to being severe” and urged the intervention of the Central government to prevent a repeat of 2016 when AQI rose to 500, its highest possible. As per norms, satisfactory AQI level is 100 and Delhi routinely is between 300 and 400. According to CPCB data, Tuesday was the most polluted day of this winter so far and at 448, the AQI was worse than the 403 on October 31, the day after Diwali. Exactly a year ago to the date, the Delhi government had faced a near identical situation, with yet another episode of Delhi being shrouded in smoke, with an AQI of 500 (the highest it can be) at the Punjabi Bagh, Anand Vihar and Mandir Marg monitoring stations of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC).

After a meeting chaired by Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal today, Sisodia said, “The PM 10 level, as per data from CPCB, was at 436, which is less than 500 – the level at which it is deemed severe. But the entire city seems like a gas chamber and though its not technically severe, advisories are being issued to all schools to stop outdoor activities for all school students due to the prevailing air pollution.” He added, “Along with this, since young children are at high-risk, all primary schools, up to Class V will remain closed tomorrow. The situation will be monitored hourly and after tomorrow, further decisions for Thursday would be taken after looking at the parameter. As per rules, even after air quality is deemed severe, there is another 48-hour period of observation.”

While adding that high-risk individuals – elderly, children, patients with respiratory or cardiac ailments or pregnant women – were being advised to restrict outdoor activities, Sisodia said: “If the need arises and the situation worsens, the government is ready to go ahead with measures such as banning the entry of trucks, construction and implementing the Odd-Even formula for vehicular movement.” These measures are almost identical to the ones that the government had announced exactly a year ago on November 7, 2016 – asking people to stay indoors, shut down of the Badarpur thermal power plant for 10 days and ordering the closure of schools in Delhi for 3 days, diesel gen sets banned for five year. The government had also said that they were ready to consider the return of the odd-even traffic plan.

In 2017, with the implementation of the Graded Response Action Plan formulated by the Supreme Court appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA), the Badarpur Power Plant has been shut since and the use of diesel gen-sets has been banned since October 17. Last year, the government had explored the possibility of cloud seeding for artificial rain to reduce suspended dust in the air – something which never worked out, explained officials. This year, the government has proposed the possibility of “reducing dust by watering Delhi from a helicopter” to the union minister Harsh Vardhan. There has been no response on this proposal, said officials. Sisodia added, “We are working on the plan.”

The Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, empowered to enforce the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), also directed the states in the region to start preparing for implementing measures like ‘odd-even’ in light of the “crisis situation”. It also announced that all measures under the GRAP’s severe category will be implemented across the region till further notice.

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    S Venkataraman
    Nov 8, 2017 at 9:41 am
    Delhites deserve what they have. They are getting facilities and amenities much better than those in rest of India. Let them enjoy this too. SC so willingly and eagerly banned cracker for Diwali in Delhi. Now there is no Diwali and no cracker bursting. Why this smog? What will SC do now? Those persons too will have to endure this. Let them also enjoy this. Why can't it give an order to Varuna to rain on tatkal basis so that quantum of PM in atmosphere reduces? If Varuna disobeys it's order, then he can be held in contempt and imprison him for as long as it pleases.
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    1. Barb Dewyre
      Nov 8, 2017 at 6:29 am
      Perhaps, this is why our Prime Minister remains away from Delhi mst of the time.
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        Nishant
        Nov 8, 2017 at 5:53 am
        Running an old time water cooler 'indoors' for just 5-10 minutes, with windows closed, can tempirarily lower the particulate pollution tremendously. It can provide several hours of good air while one sleeps in the midst of pollution near a busy intersection. Just make sure to clean the water and jali often. Replace jali with a cloth..even better.
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          Nishant
          Nov 8, 2017 at 5:47 am
          If people from Delhi can unite and give their food orders to modern kitchens working just with solar cookers, entire city, including poor and rich, can get rid of 80 of cooking via conventional sources. Initially, some subsidy will be needed, but rest of India will follow soon as there is nothing like zero fuel cost.
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            Nishant
            Nov 8, 2017 at 5:59 am
            Some innovative religious organisation's have already done it...will our politicians visit such places...don't think so !
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          2. N
            Nishant
            Nov 8, 2017 at 5:39 am
            Delhi will never be pollution free as long as politicians keep taking one senseless decision after another to portray that they are the true champions, and in control of this cause. They should instead delegate a body of scientists to implement a time bound solution at 'any' cost, and take their due credit. If they come up with innovative technology, they should be rewarded, and their patents guaranteed for protection. One example: All moving large vehicles such as trucks, buses and large tempoes can be ed with air filtering devices or mandated to run and haul them when passing across the city. Then, vehicles may actually lead to a net negative particulate pollution.
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