Indian regulators shut down six of the 11 coal-fired power plants within a 300 km radius of New Delhi because the capital has been enveloped in toxic smoke for nearly two weeks.
The Air Quality Management Committee also closed schools and colleges until further notice, banned private construction work, and restricted trucks from entering the city until November 21.
The temporary restrictions were implemented after the Indian Meteorological Department issued a warning that climatic conditions meant that dangerous air pollution might persist.
The Supreme Court of India has asked the authorities to take measures to resolve this issue, which may include a lockdown in the form of the new crown virus.
Environmentalists said that temporarily shutting down thermal power plants would help reduce emissions, but urged the authorities to take stricter long-term measures to prevent air quality from deteriorating to such dangerous levels.
“This is a good step, but it’s too late,” said Jyoti Pandey Lavakare, co-founder of Care for Air, a civil society organization that advocates for stronger pollution control measures and is also the organization’s author. Breathing here is bad for your health“Pollution is a problem they should solve this year, not a subconscious way of reacting.”
“This is not an unknown emergency,” she added. “This is something that happens every year, without failure. In India-5 billion people on the Ganges Plain are completely covered by this toxic smoke.”
In the world air quality report of Swiss air technology company IQ Air, New Delhi was named the most polluted capital in the world for three consecutive years. The city’s level of dangerous fine particulate matter known as PM2.5 is 16 times higher than the safe level considered by the World Health Organization. The air is polluted by a mixture of diesel exhaust, industrial emissions, dust and smog. Incineration of agricultural waste.
Pollution is not limited to the capital: According to IQ Air, 10 of the 15 most polluted cities in the world are located in northern India. The Lancet medical journal estimates that air pollution in India causes 1 million deaths every year.
Although the authorities have tried to prohibit farmers from setting off firecrackers and burning straws and other polluting activities, law enforcement is weak and politicians are reluctant to attack powerful interest groups.
During the recent Diwali holiday, Delhi residents ignored the ban on setting off firecrackers and were praised by Hindu nationalists for resisting a rule they described as an attack on their religion.
“It’s not taken seriously,” Pandey said. “People are not aware of the cumulative and irreversible damage to their bodies over the years.”
India’s pollution crisis coincided with its push to downplay the COP26 agreement by insisting on using weaker language to phase out coal-fired power generation.
New Delhi insists on expanding the capacity of its coal-fired power plants to meet the energy and development needs of its poor population.
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