The Environmental Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) on Friday declared a public health emergency in Delhi-NCR due to severe air pollution and advised people here, especially children and the aged, to limit their exposure to the environment.
The EPCA asked the governments of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan to issue advisories asking the public to minimise exposure to surroundings and other measures taken to try to curb the challenging levels of pollution.
“Schools are advised to work to minimise exposure of children by curtailing all outdoor activities and sports for this period,” EPCA said. Delhi has announced closure of all schools till November 5. Other NCR cities may also follow suit.
EPCA said the air quality of Delhi-NCR has deteriorated further as of Thursday night and is now at the ‘severe plus’ category.
EPCA has asked Delhi government to issue advisories urgently stating that air pollution is severe plus levels, which is hazardous for health. “People are advised to ensure that they minimise personal exposure as far as possible, do not exercise in the open till pollution levels are reduced and in particular minimise the exposure of children, aged and vulnerable.”
EPCA Chairman Bhure Lal said in a letter to Chief Secretaries of the four states “We have to take this as a public health emergency as air pollution is now hazardous and will have adverse health impacts on all, but particularly our children”.
EPC has directed that all construction activities in Delhi, Faridabad, Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Noida and Greater Noida will remain completely shut till morning of November 5. The current ban on construction was only from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Similarly, hot mix plants, stone crushers will also be completely shut. All coal and other fuel-based industries, which have not shifted to natural gas or agro-residue, will also remain closed.
Cracker bursting has been completely banned for this entire winter period. “We note that there are festivals coming and given the experience over Diwali, when in spite of all efforts, cracker burning was extremely high and led to accumulation of toxins in the air, this measure is needed,” Bhure Lal said.
EPCA has also told the states that it is imperative to take urgent steps to stop local sources of pollution, as this will only add to the already polluted air.
“This requires stringent vigilance and punitive action against all cases of local pollution, from plastic and garbage burning to dust pollution. I am also constrained to say that in spite of all our efforts, there are still many instances of local pollution and therefore, enforcement needs to be stepped up further,” Bhure Lal told the state authorities, indicating that despite measures, implementation will be key.
The current air pollution is a combination of accumulated toxins because of local pollution, which has further spiked because of bursting of crackers on Diwali night, combined with stubble burning and extremely adverse weather.
“The IMD informs us that the weather will improve in the next few days, but it is difficult to say if this improvement will lead to substantial reduction in pollution,” EPCA told the states.