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‘Gas chamber’ Delhi to limit vehicles
By Resmi Sivaram November 08, 2017
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NEW DELHI: A pollution watchdog appointed by the Supreme Court on Tuesday recommended a sharp four-fold increase in parking fee in the national capital in a bid to reduce the number of vehicles on road.

The Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) also asked for a cut in Metro rail fares during peak hours and an increase in bus services so that more people could access public services.

Delhi government shuttered primary schools for Wednesday, as Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called Delhi a “gas chamber.” All schools in Delhi have suspended outdoor activities and advised parents to ensure their children wear masks.

The odd-even traffic system may be reintroduced, the government said.

The measures have been necessitated by a spiking of air pollution in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR). On Tuesday by 10am, Delhi air quality was measured as “severe,” prompting the activation of a Graded Response Action Plan or GRAP, which includes a number of emergency measures. An emergency is declared when the Air Quality Index (AQI) soars beyond 500. On Tuesday at 4.30pm, the AQI had climbed to 436.

The Central Pollution Control Board said stations in Delhi-NCR recorded AQIs as high as 446 at 9.30am. Out of 19 monitoring stations in NCR, 12 recorded severe air quality. The lowest AQI was in Gurgaon at 357 at 9.30am.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) issued a stern warning on potential health hazards, describing Delhi as a “public health emergency state” and asking authorities to close schools as a precautionary measure.

Kejriwal tweeted that he had asked his Education Minister Manish Sisodia to consider closing schools for a few days. “Every year, during this time of the year, Delhi becomes a gas chamber for almost a month,” Kejriwal said.

Sisodia said in his order: “All primary schools will remain closed tomorrow, if needed will extend order till day after. Outdoor activities including assemblies should not take place in schools.” EPCA suggested a wait of 48 hours to decide on closing schools.

Since Oct.20, a day after Diwali festivities, pollution monitors have been recording “very poor” air quality, which is alarming according to global standards.

The EPCA said Delhi was facing a “crisis situation,” which was likely to persist for the next few days. “Delhi and all state governments in NCR to immediately intensify public transport service by ensuring there are more buses on roads. Metro should immediately increase its frequency, add more coaches and lower fares during off-peak hours,” it said.

Paddy stubble burning in neighbouring states like Punjab and Haryana have added to the air pollution in Delhi and the NCR. Farmers burn the residue to clear their fields for the wheat crop to be sown in coming weeks. The burning normally goes on until Nov.15 and leads to toxic smoke engulfing vast areas of north India including Delhi. Lack of wind speed also leads to the smoke cover settling down over the city for days, which had led to one of the worst periods of smog in decades last year.

Brick kilns, hot-mix plants and stone crushers would remain shut across the region till further notice as per EPCA orders.

Low visibility city slowed traffic Delhi’s visibility was 200 metres early morning. Long queues of cars were seen on the Delhi-Noida-Delhi Flyway and Noida-Greater Noida expressway during the rush hour.

At least 30 trains were delayed in the fog on Tuesday, railway officials said. Flights were also delayed. According to Met officials, runway visibility dropped to around 400 metres at 8am in the morning.

The minimum temperature was 17 degrees Celsius on Tuesday which was 2 degree less compared to Monday.

A ‘very poor’ Air Quality Index comes with the warning that people may develop respiratory illness on prolonged exposure.

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