‘Dangerous’ air quality in Delhi—world’s most polluted city—causes school closures

The main line

Officials in New Delhi, India, on Friday ordered the closure of all primary schools in the city as the country’s capital and the world’s most polluted city witnessed a fourth straight day of ‘dangerous’ pollution levels, prompting blame games political among the Delhi state government. and the federal government of India.

Key facts

New Delhi’s air quality index, which measures the presence of pollutants in the air, has remained above 400 – considered to be in the “severe” or “hazardous” category, where even healthy individuals are likely to experience problems – since the beginning of this week. .

According to a tracker run by AQI.in, the level of PM 2.5, airborne particles that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter, stood at 336 on Friday, which is more than 22 times above levels the WHO considers safe. .

While primary schools remain closed, outdoor activities will also be banned for senior school students from class five and above, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced.

Kejriwal noted that his government is also considering reintroducing a traffic regulation called ‘odd-even’ where vehicles with number plates ending in odd or even numbers will be allowed on the roads on different days.

Earlier on Friday, the Indian Supreme Court agreed to hear a public petition on the state of pollution in Delhi, which asks the top court to issue directions to block the burning of crop residues in neighboring states – considered a major cause behind Delhi’s toxic air. .

Big number

14. Here are how many North Indian cities have featured in IQAir’s 2021 list of the 20 most polluted cities worldwide. Delhi, which ranked fourth on the list, was the most polluted major city in the world.

Chief critic

India’s Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav has blamed Kejriwal and his party, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), for failing to tackle Delhi’s pollution crisis. Pointing to an increase in crop residue fires in Punjab state, which elected an AAP government earlier this year, Yadav posted on Twitter: “There is no doubt who has turned Delhi into a gas chamber.”

Key background

Toxic air is a recurring problem for India’s capital every winter due to a perfect storm of circumstances. The fog that arrives in early winter turns into toxic smog that is trapped over the city as it is drawn in by construction dust, brick kilns, factories, vehicle emissions and the burning of crop residues in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana. Crop residue burning has been an area of ​​particular focus in recent years, with the government urging farmers not to burn their stubble after the harvest season ends, offering them financial benefits in return. Farmers in these regions usually find it cheaper to burn crop residues to clear land for fresh plantations.

Surprising fact

According to a study conducted on breathing air with high concentrations of PM 2.5, the impact of breathing Delhi’s toxic air in November is as bad as smoking 10 to 15 cigarettes every day.

Further reading

New Delhi’s air a ‘crime against humanity’, prompting calls for school closures (Reuters)

Delhi Air: Leaders trade boats as pollution in India’s capital worsens (BBC)

Delhi air pollution: the biggest culprit this year and possible solutions (Indian Express)


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