India extends measures amid air pollution emergency in New Delhi

Amid air pollution crisis in capital, gov’t extends closure of teaching institutions, remote working for civil servants.

NEW DELHI (AA) – As India battles a serious air pollution problem in New Delhi, authorities on Wednesday extended the closure of educational institutions, as well as remote working for civil servants.

The emergency measures were taken last week amid a severe air pollution crisis in the sprawling capital. Addressing media on Wednesday, Delhi’s Environment Minister Gopal Rai announced fresh steps by the government.

“Some important decisions have been taken … in Delhi, the construction and demolition work has been banned until November 21. In Delhi, the 100% working-from-home in government offices has been extended until November 21,” said Rai, adding that schools, colleges, institutes, training centers, and libraries would remain closed until “further orders.”

The minister also announced that non-essential vehicles would no longer be allowed to enter Delhi. “To promote public transportation, we’re starting the process from tomorrow to hire 1,000 CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) buses,” said Rai, adding that 372 water sprinkling tanks were operating in the city.

In a further measure, the Commission of Air Quality Management, a panel in the federal Environment Ministry, ordered six out of the 11 active thermal power plants within 300 kilometers (186 miles) of Delhi to suspend operations.

India’s state-run meteorological forecasting and research system said air quality in the capital was “very poor” on Wednesday and would likely remain in this category for the next two days before improving.

It said strong surface winds after Nov. 20 would likely result in the “effective dispersion” of the pollution, improving air quality

The country’s top court, which is also hearing the matter, has expressed dissatisfaction over government steps taken to deal with the issue.

Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of New Delhi, admitted last week that the city was facing an “emergency-like situation.”

Air pollution has become a persistent problem in New Delhi over recent years and the city is often ranked as the most polluted capital in the world.

The issue is particularly aggravated in the winter from November to January, when farmers in nearby areas burn crop stubble and add to the emissions of coal-fired plants and industrial units around the city.


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