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Public Health Emergency Declared in Delhi as Air Quality Breaches Danger Level, All Schools Closed Till Tuesday

The share of stubble burning from the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana in Delhi's pollution rose to 46% on Friday, the highest this year, said government agency SAFAR.


Updated:November 1, 2019, 11:47 PM IST
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Public Health Emergency Declared in Delhi as Air Quality Breaches Danger Level, All Schools Closed Till Tuesday
Students, wearing masks to get protection from air-pollution, go to their school by a rickshaw, in New Delhi. (Image: PTI)

New Delhi: A Supreme Court-mandated panel on Friday declared a public health emergency in the Delhi-NCR region and banned construction activity till November 5 as the air quality dipped to “severe-plus” levels and left citizens gasping for breath. The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) also banned the bursting of crackers during the winter season.

In a letter to the chief secretaries of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi, EPCA chairperson Bhure Lal said the air quality in Delhi-NCR deteriorated further on Thursday night and is now at the “severe-plus” level. "We have to take this as a public health emergency as air pollution will have adverse health impact on all, particularly our children,” he said.

Lal said pollution touched "severe plus" levels early on Friday morning but came back to "severe" category later. According to official data, the overall Air Quality Index (AQI) at 1 pm on Friday was recorded at 480, which falls in the "severe" category.

An AQI between 0-50 is considered 'good', 51-100 'satisfactory', 101-200 'moderate', 201-300 'poor', 301-400 'very poor' and 401-500 'severe'. Above 500 falls in the 'severe-plus emergency' category.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced that all schools in the Capital will remain closed till Tuesday.

Blaming neighbouring states for turning Delhi into a gas chamber, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday distributed over 50 lakh masks to school children and appealed to other residents to use them.

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The letter by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority.

"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," Kejriwal tweeted.

He said the smoke emanating from stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana causes pollution in Delhi. "Please write letters to Captain uncle and Khattar uncle and say, 'Please think about our health'," he told children.

The share of stubble burning from Punjab and Haryana in Delhi's pollution rose to 46% on Friday, the highest this year, said government agency SAFAR.

Kejriwal also met EPCA Chairman Bhure Lal and assured him of all cooperation in implementing the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).

"I had an excellent meeting wid Sh Bhure Lal ji, EPCA chief. I sought guidance from him and reiterated the commitment of our govt in dealing wid pollution. I also assured him all cooperation in implementing GRAP and other measures," Kejriwal said in another tweet.

The blanket of haze over Delhi continued to thicken with the national capital's pollution levels increasing overnight by around 50 points, taking the overall air quality index to 459 on Friday morning.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said public health emergency in Delhi and in so many other cities is a crisis that must be solved together, adding that the health of children should be above politics.

A Central Pollution Control Board official said the AQI entered the "severe plus" or "emergency" category late Thursday night, the first time since January this year.

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Delhi Pollution Control Commitee (DPCC)'s Air Quality data.

If the air quality persists in the "severe plus" category for more than 48 hours, emergency measures such as odd-even car rationing scheme, banning entry of trucks, construction activities and shutting down schools are taken under the Graded Response Action Plan, the official said.

The chief minister's appeal comes ahead of the odd-even scheme, which is all set to make a comeback in Delhi from Monday. The car rationing scheme, which the government says will help to reduce air pollution, will run till November 15.

All the 37 air quality monitoring stations across Delhi recorded the air quality in the severe category on Friday morning.

Bawana was the most-polluted area with an AQI of 497, followed by Delhi Technological University (487), Wazirpur (485), Anand Vihar (484) and Vivek Vihar (482).

Neighbouring Ghaziabad was the most-polluted city in the country, with the levels of PM2.5 — tiny particulate matter less than 2.5 microns that can enter deep into the lungs — reaching as high as 493. Greater Noida (480), Noida (477), and Faridabad (432) also breathed extremely polluted air.

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