Delhi Air Pollution a 'Public Health Emergency', Says IMA; Kejriwal Suggests Shutting Schools

According to the Central Pollution Control Board, moisture in the air coupled with a complete absence of wind has led to this situation.

New Delhi: The national capital woke up this morning to a blanket of thick haze with pollution levels breaching the permissible standards by several notches.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) recorded ‘severe’ air quality, meaning that the intensity of pollution was extreme. According to the CPCB, moisture in the air coupled with a complete absence of wind  led to this situation. “Total calm conditions, marked by the complete absence of wind has led to the situation. The moisture has trapped emissions from ground level sources,” Dipankar Saha, CPCB’s air lab chief, told PTI.

The runway at Indira Gandhi International Airport has been closed. Over 20 flights have been delayed so far. Rail traffic too has been affected, with at least 12 trains delayed due to decreased visibility, reported ANI.

The air quality index (AQI) – a measure of the level of pollutants in the air – shot past 400 in many places in Delhi by 9:30 am, the second time since Diwali and potentially signalled the start of Delhi’s notoriously toxic winter, reported the Hindustan Times.

According to the US embassy’s real-time air quality index, the air quality was so poor in some parts of the city that it was beyond the maximum level.

Declaring the situation as a ‘public health emergency’, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has appealed to the government to consider closing schools and has asked people not to step out of their houses.

In a letter to the Delhi government, the IMA said, “All outdoor sports, marathons and other outdoor activities in schools should be stopped. Children are more prone to harmful effects of air pollution as their lungs are still growing”.

The IMA called for an annual half marathon on November 19 to be cancelled to protect runners from high levels of deadly particulate matter.

The Delhi high court asked Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan governments to inform it about the actions taken against stubble burning, reported ANI.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) also took the governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to task and asked them to explain why preventive steps were not taken to control the ‘severe’ air quality in the region.

A bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar lambasted the state governments for not being prepared in advance to tackle the emergency situation.

“The ambient air quality is so bad that children are not able to breath properly. Why didn’t you not spray water using helicopters as per our direction? You take instructions and inform us day after tomorrow,” the NGT bench said.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal asked his deputy and education minister Manish Sisodia to consider shutting schools in the city for a few days in view of the high pollution.

“Delhi has become a gas chamber. Every year this happens during this part of year. We have to find a soln to crop burning in adjoining states,” Kejriwal tweeted today.

The last time the air quality was ‘severe’ was on October 20, a day after Diwali, reported PTI. Since then, pollution has been at ‘very poor’ levels.

(With inputs from PTI)