India: New Delhi closes schools, halts construction in effort to curb toxic air pollution
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India: New Delhi closes schools, halts construction in effort to curb toxic air pollution

THE massive capital of India, New Delhi, has come to a standstill as the Indian government orders schools to be shut, construction to be halted, and for all roads to be doused with water to settle dust in a attempt to lessen crippling air pollution that continues to engulf the city.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal told reporters on Sunday after an emergency Cabinet meeting that schools will be shut for three days and all construction is to be halted for a minimum of five. He added that a coal-fueled power plant on the edge of the city will be closed down for 10 days.

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Levels of PM2.5 – tiny particulat matter that can clog lungs – reportedly soared to over 900 micrograms per cubic meter on Saturday, well over 90 times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization and 15 times the Indian government’s norms.

Crop burning in surrounding farms are one of the biggest sources of pllution for New Delhi, but the authorities have struggled to enforce cash fines on farmers. A farmer from the neighbouring Haryana state told Associated Press that the blame should not be laid squarely on farmers’ shoulders, as pollutants from diesel cars, factories, and other sources also contribute to the smog.

According to the Indian Express, health experts have suggested that both private and government establishments stagger their working hours, and that the government should introduce a “vehicle restriction program” as soon as possible.

Kejriwal was quoted by the Hindustan Times as saying: “We need to give farmers alternative technologies so that they stop burning the remaining parts of crop. We need the help of the central government for that. The Delhi government doesn’t have too many methods to tackle this crisis as reason of smog is outside Delhi.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press