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India

Schools shut as smog worsens in Indian capital

Delhi government orders schools to close for a week and bans construction work for four days

AFP, New Delhi

AFP, New Delhi

Published: November 17, 2021 05:27 AM GMT

Updated: November 17, 2021 05:37 AM GMT

Schools shut as smog worsens in Indian capital

The Akshardham temple is pictured amid heavy smog in New Delhi on Nov. 16. (Photo: AFP)

New Delhi has shut down schools until further notice, urged people to work from home and banned non-essential trucks from entering the Indian capital due to dangerous levels of air pollution.

One of the world's most polluted cities and home to some 20 million people, Delhi is cloaked every winter in a thick blanket of smog.

On Nov. 13, the Delhi government had ordered schools to close for a week and banned construction work for four days.

But in an order passed late Nov. 16, the Commission for Air Quality Management for Delhi said all education institutions should remain shut until further notice.

Lorries except those carrying essential goods are barred from entering the capital until Nov. 21 and most construction activity was halted, the order said.

"Anti-smog guns" and water sprinklers were ordered to operate at hotspots at least three times a day.

One of the contributors to air pollution in winter is the smoke from farmers burning their crop residue in neighboring states

Six of the 11 thermal power plants within a 300-kilometer radius were told to cease operations until further notice.

The commission also said that at least 50 percent of staff employed in government should work from home and encouraged those in private firms to follow suit.

The order comes days after the Delhi government pushed back against a call by India's Supreme Court to declare a "pollution lockdown" that would restrict the city's population to their homes.

One of the contributors to air pollution in winter is the smoke from farmers burning their crop residue in neighboring states.

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The government, however, told the Supreme Court that industry was the biggest contributor followed by vehicular pollution and dust.

This week PM 2.5 levels — the most harmful particulate matter that is responsible for chronic lung and heart disease — have been over 400 in several parts of the city.

Last week the levels touched 500, which is more than 30 times the maximum limit recommended by the World Health Organization.

A Lancet report in 2020 said almost 17,500 people died in Delhi in 2019 because of air pollution.

And a report by Swiss organisation IQAir last year found that 22 of the world's 30 most polluted cities were in India.

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