As pollution levels worsened in Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today said schools in the city will remain closed till Wednesday and announced a raft of "emergency" measures to deal with the situation including ban on construction and demolition activities for next five days and temporary closure of Badarpur Power Plant.
Kejriwal was addressing the media after chairing an emergency Cabinet meet, called to discuss a likely action plan to immediately cull pollution in Delhi. Stating that the Delhi government was not interested in indulging in "blame games" on such a serious issue, he said that the need of the hour was that instead of politicising the issue, everybody must come together to solve it.
He said the government will discuss with the Centre the possibility of engineering artificial rain in the city that has turned into a "gas chamber" mainly due to large-scale crop burning in Haryana and Punjab.
The chief minister also listed out a slew measures that will be implemented to improve the worsening air quality in the national capital. He announced that all schools will be shut for three days.
"Schools will be closed for the next three days. Health department will issue the first pollution advisory tomorrow. We also appeal to people to stay indoors and work from home, if possible. We are also starting the preparation for odd-even. We will make an assessment in the next few days and implement it, if need be," he told reporters at his residence.
Stating that there should be no blame game over the environmental crisis that has gripped Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also announced a ban on the use of generator sets in the city.
The AAP government was also mulling the possibility of bringing back the odd-even scheme. The Chief Minister also appealed to people to stay indoors and if possible work from home considering the situation, adding that strict action will be taken against those found burning garbage.
Moreover, Kejriwal also said that vaccum cleaning of roads will start from 10 November to get rid of dirt which adds to the already alarming levels of particulate matter in the city's air, according CNN-News18. The government also announced that the Badarpur Thermal Power Plant will remain shut for 10 days to grant immediate relief to Delhiites dealing with high levels of pollution. Transportation of fly ash will also be stopped during these days and water sprinkling on mass scale will be conducted to further cut down on dust and particulate matter in the air.
The other measures announced by Kejriwal include sprinkling of water on roads on a large scale from Monday, strict enforcement of ban on burning of leaves (and waste) in the open and a promise to begin vacuum cleaning of roads from November 10.
"All DG sets, except those used in emergency services in hospitals and mobile towers, will not be allowed for the next ten days. All PWD roads, wider than 100 feet, will be vacuum cleaned at least once a week from November 10. And an app will be launched on burning of leaves tomorrow," Kejriwal said. He said power connections will be provided even in unauthorised colonies to tackle the menace of DG sets. Power connection does not mean regularisation though, he said. He said local sanitary inspectors will be taken to task if there are instances of waste burning in the open. The MCDs have been informed to take measures to douse fires in the landfill sites, he said. Kejriwal stressed on the need to hammer out solutions together.
He also said that the extent of crop burning was way above than what was seen over the last few years. "Government is not unprepared. No one thought crop burning will be of this scale and weather conditions are also inclement. Delhi was polluted from the beginning so the extra pollutants aggravated the situation," he said.
Meanwhile, a rise in the number of cases of allergic and breathing ailments was recorded in the city as experts and doctors said that besides spike in fresh cases, health complications have aggravated in people having a history of asthma, allergy or other related ailments.
"We are seeing a rise of 60-70 percent in ailment cases related to pollution. Breathlessness, asthma, eye and skin allergies case have jumped. We are getting patients as young as a two-month-old baby who had bronchiolitis," says Dr Rahul Nagpal, Director and Head, Pediatrics, at Fortis Hospital in Vasant Kunj.
Recently, the National Green Tribunal had pulled up the Centre and AAP government for "shifting blame" and not taking steps to tackle the alarming air pollution level in Delhi, saying what a "terrible" future are we giving to our children.
The national capital was facing the worst smog in 17 years, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had said on Thursday, while asking the Delhi government to issue health alerts and convey that children should stay indoors as there was a state of health emergency due to peaking air pollution.
Peak level of respirable pollutants PM 2.5 and PM10 had also violated the safe limits by over 15 times at places like RK Puram. The prescribed standard of PM 2.5 is 60 micrograms per cubic metre, but it touched 955 in real-time during early morning hours.
Admitting that the enforcement of rules for tackling air pollution was "weak", the Environment Ministry on Friday had asked states to "strictly" implement a host of measures, including checking spread of fly ash from Delhi's Badarpur plant and shutting down of old brick kilns.
With inputs from PTI