Dhe air pollution in the Indian capital has reached such levels that the city government has declared a state of emergency. Construction sites in Delhi remain closed, coal-fired power plants are shut, schoolchildren sit at home. Air pollution in Delhi is fifteen times higher than the level still considered acceptable in India. Delhi’s chief administrative officer, Arvind Kejriwal, described his city as a “gas chamber.”
Air pollution in the Indian capital regularly reaches dangerous levels for health in autumn and winter. Air pollution in Delhi has continued to rise since Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights last week, during which millions of fireworks are traditionally set off. On the weekend it was above 999 for PM2.5 dirt particles. It is considered the most dangerous. The Indian government considers air pollution of 60 PM2.5 as a safe exposure limit. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a value of ten. Visibility in the metropolis was less than 200 meters on Sunday.
Drastic rules against air pollution
Doctors have been warning for years of growing disease risks from air pollution in Indian cities. In Delhi, 20 percent of all lung cancer patients are now non-smokers, compared to less than ten percent a decade ago. India is home to six of the world’s ten cities with the highest air pollution.
Administrative director Kejriwal imposed drastic rules on Sunday: construction sites will be closed for the next five days and no demolitions will be allowed. Schoolchildren initially have three days off. Badarpur’s coal-fired power plant will be shut down for ten days, and the city’s tens of thousands of diesel generators will have to be turned off for ten days. This means that power to cooling appliances and lighting in many homes and factories will be lost. Bulldozers are expected to put out fires at the huge Bhalsawa landfill. Farmers in the neighboring states of Haryana and Punjab should immediately stop burning agricultural waste and crop residue. But it is a political question: the Minister of the Environment immediately calculated that burning represents only a small part of air pollution. It is cheaper for farmers to light fires than to pay to haul away waste.
The city government is likely to decide on Monday that automobiles in Delhi will be allowed to ply only on odd or even days, depending on their number plates. “People should stay at home and work from there,” Kejriwal said.
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