Schools in India's Delhi close as smog envelops city

The concentration of PM2.5 was 51.9 times higher than the WHO safety guidelines.

Jean Chien Tay | November 18, 2021, 01:33 PM

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All schools and colleges in Delhi, India, have been shut indefinitely due to worsening levels of air pollution, the BBC reported.

City might be going into a brief lockdown

Apart from transport and defence-related projects, construction work in the city has also been banned until Nov. 21.

Previously on Nov. 13, the state government had initially ordered schools to close for a week and construction work to halt for four days, according to Al Jazeera.

The BBC reported that India's Supreme Court ordered the state and federal government to implement "imminent and emergency" measures to handle the pollution.

The local government is considering a weekend lockdown to curtail automobile traffic and other potentially polluting sources of activity, and is waiting for approval from India's Supreme Court, AP reported.

However, the decision is deemed ineffective by some experts, who said it's not going to do much to reduce pollution, and might even disrupt the lives of millions of people.

Concentration of PM2.5 particles way higher than WHO guidelines

Since the festival of Diwali, Delhi has reportedly been affected by a toxic haze.

As of Nov. 18, the air pollution tracking website IQAir rates the city's air quality index (AQI) at 310 AQI, well above the 100 AQI that is deemed "satisfactory" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Meanwhile, the concentration of the harmful PM2.5 pollutant in Delhi's air is also 51.9 times higher than the World Health Organisation (WHO)'s safety guidelines.

More measures to handle air pollution

According to Bloomberg, six coal-fired power plants located around Delhi have been ordered to halt operations until the end of November, as authorities are looking to clean the air in the city.

Trucks have been restricted from entering Delhi and its neighbouring states, except for those carrying essential goods, as per the BBC.

Delhi's Commission for Air Quality Management also said that at least 50 per cent of government staff should work from home until Nov. 21, and encouraged private firms to implement similar measures, Al Jazeera reported.

Additionally, water sprinklers and "anti-smog guns" will reportedly be deployed at hotspots for at least three times a day.

Annual occurrence

Despite the closure of power plants, the power supply for Delhi and its neighbouring states is unlikely to be affected, as power companies would usually prepare in advance for the annual occurrence, according to Bloomberg.

Every year, the city and its surroundings are affected by a toxic haze, especially when temperatures drop nearing winter.

Indian billionaire Sunil Mittal said Delhi was "covered with smog", when he was speaking at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore on Nov. 17.

Highlighting the issue of air pollution and climate change, Mittal added that Delhi is experiencing one of its worst weeks, and that they "can't live like this".

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Top image via BBC/Getty Images