Delhi’s air labeled ‘hazardous’, prompts calls for schools to close

Delhi’s air labeled ‘hazardous’, prompts calls for schools to close

NEW DELHI, Nov 3 (Reuters) – Delhi’s 20 million residents were practically breathing smoke on Thursday as the air quality index (AQI) exceeded “serious” and “dangerous” category in almost all monitoring stations in the Indian capital, prompting calls for school closures.

The AQI crossed 450 in many places earlier in the day, according to data from the Central Pollution Control Board. A reading over 400 affects healthy people, with a serious impact on those with pre-existing conditions, the federal government says.

The index crossed 800 in some pockets of the city, according to the findings of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee.

Alarmed by abnormally high levels of air pollution in Delhi, India’s federal pollution control board on Thursday evening banned diesel trucks carrying non-essential goods from entering the capital.

“What is happening to Delhi’s air pollution is nothing short of a crime against humanity!” author and socialite Suhel Seth wrote on Twitter. “There has been a complete collapse of accountability!”

The world’s most polluted capital is shrouded in smog every winter as cold, heavy air traps construction dust, vehicle emissions and smoke from burning stubble in neighboring states to clear fields for the next harvest.

Cooler temperatures, calmer winds and their changing direction worsen air quality from time to time.

Parents and environmentalists on social media called for the schools to be closed.

“I know children don’t vote for you, but still, I request all Chief Ministers of Delhi (National Capital Region) to CLOSE all schools immediately,” environmental activist Vimlendu Jha wrote on Twitter.

“It is NOT NORMAL to breathe 500+ AQI, not for our children, where one in three children already has some lung challenge.”

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose party also rules Punjab state where crop burning is rampant, said on Twitter that “people of Punjab and Delhi are taking all steps at their level” to tackle pollution.

The capital has halted most construction and demolition work this week suppresses dust pollution and urged residents to share trips with cars and motorbikes, work from home when possible and reduce the use of coal and firewood at home.

Reporting by Krishna N. Das; edited by William Mallard and Mark Heinrich

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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