Friday, January 21

India: Delhi to reopen schools closed due to pollution

Schools in New Delhi will be able to reopen on Monday, authorities said Wednesday, after air pollution in the still high Indian capital dropped from the level classified as “dangerous”.

Delhi state environment minister Gopal Rai said pollution levels in the city have “improved over the past three days.

“Schools, colleges and institutions can reopen Monday,” he announced. “Government offices where homework was imposed will also reopen and we will advise officials to use public transport,” he added.

The authorities had announced the shutdown of some coal factories, the ban on access to non-essential vehicles, restrictions on construction work and urged the population to confine themselves while the level of pollution measured by the amount of fine particles PM 2.5 in the air climbed to 500 micrograms per cubic meter, more than 20 times the maximum level set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The levels of PM 2.5, particularly harmful fine particles, promoting chronic lung and heart disease, were still around 120 micrograms per cubic meter on Wednesday, according to the Swiss organization IQAir. WHO recommends a maximum of 25 micrograms per m3 per day.

Delhi, one of the most polluted city in the world, home to around 20 million people, is regularly shrouded in thick yellowish fog in winter, due in particular to agricultural burns in neighboring northern states.

Restrictions on construction activity in the city have already been relaxed. Cleaner electric and compressed natural gas vehicles will also be allowed to circulate in Delhi.

Last week, the Delhi Air Quality Management Commission ordered “anti-smog” cannons to be activated in areas of high pollution at least three times a day.

A cosmetic measure for many because it does not attack industrial pollutants, exhaust gases or agricultural burns at the root of the problem.

According to a report published last year by IQAir, 22 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world are in India.

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