India’s capital territory Delhi has ordered the closure of schools and colleges until further notice from Friday after the Supreme Court criticised the state government for reopening educational institutions despite “very poor” air quality.
The Delhi government last week decided to reopen schools and colleges after closing them for nearly 15 days due to a spike in air pollution.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court, which is hearing a public petition over the government’s inability to cut air pollution, expressed its dismay over the decision by Delhi authorities to reopen schools and colleges and gave authorities 24 hours to reduce smog levels.
A ban on construction and the entry of diesel trucks with non-essential goods would continue, Delhi’s Environment Minister Gopal Rai said.
Rai also asked people to use public transport. The Delhi government has hired an extra 700 natural gas-fuelled buses to encourage people to use public transport.
The government would intensify various dust control steps, such as using fire trucks to spray water, he said.
Delhi’s foul air is putting more children in hospital with breathing problems, raising concerns among parents.
The city’s levels of PM2.5 – the most harmful particulate matter responsible for chronic lung and heart disease – were about 215 micrograms per cubic metre, according to monitoring company IQAir.
The figure is more than 14 times the daily maximum limit suggested by the World Health Organization.
A Lancet report last year said almost 17,500 people died in Delhi in 2019 because of air pollution.
A report by IQAir last year found that 22 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities were in India.