As a Supreme Court-mandated panel declared a public health emergency in the national capital, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal sought a response from the Centre as well as the governments of Punjab and Haryana on stubble-burning.
Kejriwal, while briefing the media later in the day, said it is wrong on the part of opposition parties to blame and curse the people of Delhi for high level of air pollution. “Stop mocking Delhi over the pollution situation. We want answers from the chief ministers of Haryana and Punjab (on stubble burning),” he said.
Issuing a notification for the implementation of the odd-even plan between November 4-15, the chief minister decided to stagger working hours of government offices during this period. However, the order will not be applicable to private offices in the national capital.
The offices of various departments of the Delhi government will open at 9.30 am and 10.30 am, he said.
The chief minister also announced that no surge pricing will be done by app-based cabs during the odd-even scheme.
Earlier in the day, Kejriwal said schools in the capital would be shut till November 5.
The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) also ordered a complete construction ban till November 5 in Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad and Greater Noida, along with a ban on the bursting of firecrackers during the winter season.
An AQI above 500 is considered “severe-plus emergency” category. AQI between 0-50 is considered “good”, 51-100 “satisfactory”, 101-200 “moderate”, 201-300 “poor”, 301-400 “very poor”, and 401-500 “severe”, a category in which Delhi’s air has been for the past three days.
Exposure to polluted air for such sustained periods of time can lead to breathing difficulties, lung damage and other adverse health effects, especially among children and the elderly.
“We have to take this as a public health emergency as air pollution will have adverse health impact on all, particularly our children,” PTI quoted EPCA chairperson Bhure Lal as saying in his letter to the chief secretaries of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi.
Meanwhile, the education department of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation has ordered closure of 581 schools under the civic body on Monday due to “prevailing poor air quality”. “Due to prevailing poor air quality (smog) in GNCTD, competent authority has ordered closure of all schools run/aided/recognised by SDMC on Monday, i.e. November 4,” read the order issued by the body on Friday.
Earlier today, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal distributed pollution masks to school children, along with blaming stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana for the poor air quality.
“Delhi has turned into a gas chamber due to smoke from crop burning in neighbouring states. It is very imp that we protect ourselves from this toxic air. Through pvt & govt schools, we have started distributing 50 lakh masks today. I urge all Delhiites to use them whenever needed,” he tweeted.
AQI this season in Delhi had been in the “very poor” category till Diwali, but hit “severe” levels on Tuesday. According to experts, stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana and the bursting of firecrackers on Diwali have led to the drop in Delhi’s air quality.
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