November 1 (Hindustan Times) – The Delhi government on Friday announced the closure of all schools till November 5 as air quality deteriorated breaching ‘severe plus ’ level and pollution control body declared a public health emergency in Delhi-NCR, which remained shrouded in a thick, toxic layer of smoke and haze.
“Due to stubble burning, the pollution level in Delhi is very high, hence the government has decided to shut all schools till November 5,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) value was hovering at 459 at 8 am and this is the first time that the air quality has dipped to emergency levels in the national capital this season. Such a situation was last seen in January 2019.
This prompted the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPA), a Supreme Court-mandated body, to declare a public health emergency. It stated that the air quality in Delhi NCR has become “hazardous” and will have adverse health impacts on all particularly the children.
The EPA also suspended all construction activity in Delhi-NCR till November 5. The measures are a part of the Graded Response Action Plan extreme measures that kick in as soon as the AQI breaches a severe level. Other measures include the odd-even vehicle rationing, which begins on November 4 and banning the entry of trucks.
Delhi witnessed a spike in pollution after Diwali and the air quality quickly dipped in the following week with the share of stubble burning in Delhi’s pollution rising to 35 percent, according to the Ministry of Earth Sciences’ air quality monitor SAFAR.
Satellites picked up at least 2,200 instances of fires in Punjab and Haryana on Monday, most of the cases of stubble burning. On Tuesday, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the figure stood at 1,602 just for Punjab, the most recorded on a single day this season. Experts have previously predicted that more crop residues are burnt around the time of Diwali since farmers can show them as incidental fires. They use the method to quickly and cheaply ready their fields for the next round of sowing.