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Delhi’s Air Pollution Is Now so Bad That a Public Health Emergency Has Been Declared

In the city that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal refers to as a “gas chamber”, schools are being temporarily shut down, while a ban has been imposed on construction activity and bursting of firecrackers.
Shamani Joshi
Mumbai, IN
Delhis air pollution is so bad a public health emergency has been declared
A woman sweeps a road next to the India Gate monument amid thick air pollution in New Delhi on October 30, 2019. Photo: Sajjad Hussain/AFP

Not only is the Air Quality Index (AQI) in India’s national capital Delhi so bad that environmentalists don’t want cricket matches to be played out in the open, but things have taken such a turn for the worse that a panel of the Supreme Court of India has declared an unprecedented public health emergency. The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (ECPA) has shut down all schools until November 5, while bans on construction activity and bursting firecrackers have been imposed to curb pollution.


Over the last few months , the AQI in Delhi had improved and was slowly going back to normal after heavy rains, but the aftermath of Diwali saw the air quality spike up to the ‘severe plus’ or ‘emergency’ category.

The situation has prompted Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to refer to the city as a “gas chamber”, urging everyone to use pollution masks to protect themselves. He has also pointed fingers at the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana for contributing to the problem since around this time, thousands of farmers burn crop stubbles that generate a lot of smoke.

Under the Graded Response Action Plan, if such severe conditions persist, the odd-even scheme, in which the use of cars will be rationed based on whether their number plate has odd or even numbers, will be put into force Monday onwards, and the movement of trucks into the city will also be banned.

"People have also been advised to not exercise in the open till the pollution level reduces and special care should be taken of the children, aged and vulnerable population,” said Bhure Lal, the EPCA chairperson. "This is a grave situation and I am hoping for your personal intervention so that there is stringent enforcement and full compliance with the directions issued.”

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