As the national capital battles the deadly fog that has enveloped the city for over a week, Delhi schools will switch to online lessons beginning Monday, all construction activities will be halted, and government offices will operate from home, announced Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday.
For the time being, the WFH directive for government offices is also for seven days.
Construction activity, on the other hand, which contributes to dust and microscopic pollutants in the air, would be shut down for only four days, from November 14 to 17, according to the Chief Minister.
Mr Kejriwal’s four-step pollution-control proposal, which includes a city-wide lockdown, comes only hours after an enraged Supreme Court ordered the central and Delhi governments to prioritise an emergency reaction over long-term efforts to address the problem.
“From Monday onwards, schools will be closed physically (though they will be open digitally) for a week so that students do not have to breathe toxic air. Between November 14 and 17, no construction activity would be permitted ” according to Mr. Kejriwal, who spoke to reporters.
“For a week, government agencies will work from home (WFH) at full capacity. Private offices would be advised to use the WFH option whenever available “he stated.
For the past seven days, Delhi and its surrounding districts, including Gurgaon, Noida, and Ghaziabad, have been drowning beneath a deadly blanket of dirty air, which began with Diwali last week.
Thousands of people in these and other locations let off firecrackers in defiance of directives from the Delhi, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh governments, contributing significantly to the appalling deterioration of air quality.
At 6.30 p.m., the overall AQI in Delhi was 427, according to the Central Pollution Control Board.
A reading of 400 or higher on the AQI is considered’severe’ or ‘hazardous.’ The contaminated air contains high amounts of PM2.5 particles, which can cause cardiovascular and respiratory disorders, including lung cancer, at these levels.
Farmers burning stubble in adjacent areas has also harmed air quality in Delhi, which is an annual problem that adds toxins to the environment.
NV Ramana, the Chief Justice, stated: “You can see how awful the situation is… we’re even wearing masks in our homes. Tell us how you intend to handle an emergency. Lockdown for two days? What is your strategy for lowering the AQI? The state government admitted in court that breathing Delhi air is “equivalent smoking 20 cigarettes a day,” stressing, “We concur to the gravity of the situation.”
The Chief Justice urged the government to look above politics and collaborate with the Arvind Kejriwal administration to address the city’s annual (and worsening) problem.
The Delhi administration was chastised by the court, which said: “You just opened all of the schools a few of weeks ago… The lungs of all children are exposed to this dangerous air.”
The court also questioned the government’s attempts to halt stubble burning, and was displeased by the responsibility placed on Punjab farmers.
“Why are you implying that farmers are to blame for pollution? There is only a small amount of pollution. What about the rest of the group? What steps are you taking to reduce pollution in Delhi? You tell us what your plans are… not for the next few days, but for the next few weeks “The court was adamant.