17:28 GMT04 December 2020
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    New Delhi (Sputnik): As the winter has started setting in, it has become harder to breathe in India's capital, with the Air Quality Index reaching the “Severe” level of 533 points on Friday. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has said the state has “turned into a gas chamber due to smoke from crops burning in neighbouring states”.

    A statutory panel set up by the Supreme Court of India has declared a ‘Health Emergency’ in Delhi due to poor air quality. In a letter to the chief secretaries of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the Chairman of Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) Bure Lal said, “The air quality in Delhi and NCR deteriorated further last night and is now at the severe plus level. We have to take this as a public health emergency as it will have adverse impacts on everyone, particularly our children.”

    The Air Quality Index measures the concentration of tiny particles that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter and can be carried deep into the lungs, causing deadly diseases including cancer and cardiac problems.

    The EPCA has directed that all coal and other fuel-based industries should be closed in Delhi and the satellite regions of Delhi until 5 November. However, this directive would not be applicable to industries operating on piped natural gas.

    “This requires stringent vigilance and punitive action against all such cases of local pollution, from plastic and garbage burning to dust pollution. I am also constrained to say that in spite of our effort; there are still many instances of local pollution and therefore, enforcement needs to be stepped up further,” Lal said in his letter.

    Meanwhile, Chief Minister Kejriwal has launched the distribution of masks to students of state-run and private schools to protect them from toxic air.

    The Delhi government had announced a Graded Response Action Plan, which includes odd-even road rationing, a ban on the entry of trucks and construction activities.  

    The Delhi government has ordered odd-even road rationing, a ban on the entry of trucks, the freezing of construction activities, and other measures, such as school closures, in view of the worsening situation.

    Meanwhile a task force set up at the Central Pollution Control Board has asked Delhi’s neighbouring states to stop wasting time.

    “Punjab and Haryana must take immediate stringent actions to curb stubble burning. Biomass burning in Delhi and other NCR and other NCR towns must also be strictly checked,” said the Task Force.


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