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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Kejriwal: No lockdown for now, close schools, stop construction work

Government offices will all work from home, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, and added that an advisory is being prepared for private offices to try and work from home as far as possible.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: November 14, 2021 5:42:24 am
Employees of government offices will work from home for a week, Kejriwal. (File)

AFTER AN emergency meeting to discuss measures to control Delhi’s worsening air quality, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced closure of schools for a week starting Monday, and a halt to all construction activities from November 14 to 17. Government employees will work from home, while private offices will be advised to do the same, Kejriwal said.

For the third consecutive day, Delhi’s air quality was in the ‘severe’ category on Saturday, with the Air Quality Index standing at 437. The city saw its first ‘severe’ air day on November 5, the day after Diwali. The worst AQI so far was on November 12, at 471.

“Between November 14 and 17, the weather forecast shows that smoke from stubble burning will continue and wind will be slow, and this could make the situation worse,” the CM said, after the meeting.

With the Supreme Court earlier in the day suggesting a “lockdown”, Kejriwal said: “We are still working out what the value of a lockdown will be. We are not imposing a lockdown yet. We are preparing a proposal to determine this and will only place it Kejriwal: No lockdown for now, close schools, stop construction work before the Supreme Court as a proposal.”

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Calling it an “extreme step”, he said: “We need to take the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board), SAFAR, and Union government into confidence, and will discuss with all the agencies.”

“This is not the time to point fingers. Our aim is to reduce the pollution that has increased within the city and created an emergency situation, in order to provide relief to the people,” Kejriwal said. Strict measures are a compulsion and are necessary, he added.

The sub-committee of the Commission for Air Quality Management on the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) said Saturday that while PM10 and PM2.5 levels had come down, they continue to be in the “severe AQI category”. It advised states and agencies to be in readiness to implement “emergency” measures under GRAP, including stopping construction; introducing the odd-even scheme for private vehicles; closing brick kilns, hot mix plants and stone crushers; increasing mechanised cleaning of roads; and stopping the use of diesel generator sets.

The CPCB Saturday said: “The air pollution levels in Delhi-NCR post-Diwali have been substantially high. It is due to the compounding impact of local sources, adverse meteorological conditions that restrict pollution dispersion, and regional contribution, including stubble burning.”

SAFAR’s founder-project director Gufran Beig said that while marginal improvement in air quality to ‘very poor’ can be expected Sunday, a significant improvement is not expected. Beig attributed the worsening of air quality to the accumulated effect of high emissions from farm fires, calm local conditions, and favourable wind speed and direction for transport of smoke from stubble burning. The contribution of stubble burning to PM2.5 levels in Delhi was around 31% on Saturday, according to the SAFAR forecasting system.

Usually, farm fires peak earlier in November and subside before the weather gets cold, Beig said. But this year, a delayed monsoon withdrawal delayed stubble burning, and the increase in farm fires coincided with a fall in temperatures.

The minimum temperature over the past few days has been declining steadily — from 15 degrees Celsius on November 5 to 11.1 degrees on November 13.

As per the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the smog conditions have now lasted six days — the same as in 2018 and 2020. In 2019, they lasted eight days, the CSE said.

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