Delhi and the adjoining National Capital Region (NCR) woke up to the worst air quality and smog of the year so far on 7 November. As a thick, yellow blanket of smog hung over the city, several parts reported air quality that was worse than that recorded the day after Diwali.
Pollution rose to dangerous levels, with 18 out of 21 active pollution monitoring stations recording "severe" air quality.
The Delhi government acted promptly, taking steps to check pollution levels. Here are the key developments of the day:
1) Parking Fees Hiked
Authorities hiked vehicle parking fees by four times in Delhi in a bid to curb the worsening air quality. The decision was taken at a 7 November meeting of the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority to discourage people from using private vehicles as air pollution worsened further and touched alarming proportions.
2) Schools to Remain Shut
Delhi's Education Minister Manish Sisodia has announced that all primary schools will remain closed on Wednesday, 8 November. He also said that if needed, the order will be extended till 9 November.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had earlier announced that he had requested Education Minister Manish Sisodia to shut schools in Delhi-NCR for a few days in view of the worsening air quality. The pollution was compounded by the presence of winds from Punjab and Haryana, where stubble burning continues unabated.
"Dear parents, please note that due to high pollution levels/unfavourable weather conditions in Delhi, morning sports practice has been suspended for a few days," read a message by Sanskriti School.
AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria said there is not enough data on the efficacy of masks and stressed on the need for initiating a movement to protect the environment.
"Masks are not very helpful as a lot of air can get inside from the sides. Also, they are tightly sealed and children and eldery find them very uncomfortable to use.”
He suggested implementing long-term measures and said the use of nasal filters or air purifiers can provide short-term relief only.
Education institutions in the National Capital Region have also issued advisories in view of high pollution levels. Sri Ram School in Gurgaon "cancelled all after-school sports activities" and ordered that all "morning activities be conducted indoors".
3) Long Delays at Delhi Airport, Flights Affected
More than 300 flights have been delayed by up to two hours.
Poor visibility rendered one of the runways inoperable during the morning hours, leaving airport officials with just one airstrip of the total three to handle as many as 45 incoming and outgoing flights every hour.
Sources at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport said that due to low visibility on runway 9/27, they could only use runway 10/28 in the morning.
The third runway 11/29 will remain shut for three days for maintenance. The official added that the second runway was opened after visibility improved.
The airport will be handling only 70 percent of the flights it witnesses everyday — down from 1,100 to 800.
4) ‘Slash Metro Fare, Introduce More Buses’
The Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) recommended a series of measures for the Delhi Metro. The measures include lowering fares during off-peak hours for at least 10 days, introducing more coaches and frequent services. The green body also instructed Delhi and neighbouring states – Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana – to strengthen the public transport system by introducing more buses.
5) Fines on Road Construction
The EPCA directed a fine of Rs 50,000 on road construction agencies violating dust pollution norms in the region. The body asked the Delhi-NCR governments to start preparing for measures like ban on construction activities if pollution aggravates.
The measures also include complete closure of brick kilns, hot mix plants and stone crushers across the region till further notice.
6) Odd-Even to Make a Comeback?
The EPCA has recommended that among other measures, the odd-even formula could be implemented again in Delhi. Under this scheme, private cars with license numbers ending with an odd number and an even number are allowed on the roads only on alternate days.
7) Marathon May Be Cancelled
Doctors in Delhi have asked for cancellation of the city's half marathon slated to be held on 19 November.
The Indian Medical Association has said that the air quality is particularly poor early in the day when the race is bound to take place. The race should be called off, the association has urged, in order to protect runners and volunteers from exposure to high levels of deadly particulate matter that lodge deep in the lungs.
8) Masks For Security Personnel
A total of 8,000 masks were distributed to CISF personnel involved in Metro security, while around 5000 were handed out to personnel involved in Airport security.
(With inputs from IANS)
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