EPCA declares public health emergency in Delhi-NCR, schools closed until November 5

NEW DELHI: A panel ordered by the Supreme Court on Friday declared a public health emergency in the Delhi-NCR region and banned construction activity until November 5.

As pollution levels in the region fell into the most severe category, the Environmental Pollution Authority (Prevention and Control) also banned the outbreak of cookies during the winter season.

The Delhi government ordered the closure of schools until November 5 following the alarming level of pollution, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Twitter.



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In a letter to the chief secretaries of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the president of EPCA, Bhure Lal, said: The air quality in Delhi and NCR deteriorated further last night and is now at the most positive level. We have to take this as a public health emergency, as it will have an adverse impact on the health of everyone, especially our children.

Under these circumstances, he said, construction activities, hot mixing plants and stone crushers in Delhi, Faridabad, Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Noida and Greater Noida will remain closed until the morning of November 5.

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The cloud cover over Delhi thickened on Friday morning and pollution levels in the national capital increased overnight.

Bhure Lal said the pollution hit severe levels earlier on Friday morning, but returned to the severe category later. According to official data, the general air quality index (AQI) at 1 pm on Friday was recorded at 480, which falls into the severe category.

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An AQI between 0-50 is considered 'good', 51-100 'satisfactory', 101-200 'moderate', 201-300 'poor', 301-400 'very poor' and 401-500 'severe'. More than 500 falls into the category of 'more severe emergency'.

Previously, EPCA had banned construction activities only during the period between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. until November 2. Now, no construction can take place even during the day.

EPCA ordered that all coal and other fuel-based industries, which have not been changed to natural gas or agricultural waste, will remain closed in Faridabad, Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Noida, Bahadurgarh, Bhiwadi, Greater Noida, Sonepat, Panipat until November 5 morning.

In Delhi, industries, which have not yet switched to piped natural gas, will not operate during the period, he said.

The burning of cookies is completely prohibited throughout the winter period. We note that there are festivals to come and given Diwali's experience, when despite all the efforts, cookie burning was extremely high and led to the accumulation of toxins in the air, this measure is necessary, said Bhure Lal.

He also said that it is imperative that implementing agencies take urgent measures to stop local sources of pollution, as this will only increase already contaminated air.

This requires strict monitoring and punitive measures against all cases of local contamination, from burning plastics and garbage to dust contamination. I am also forced to say that despite all our efforts, there are still many cases of local pollution and, therefore, application needs to be further intensified, he said.

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