New Delhi, November 1: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday distributed anti-pollution masks to school-going children in the Capital, on a day the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) declared a public health emergency in Delhi-NCR.
The EPCA advised residents, especially children and the aged, to reduce exposure to hazardous air. Delhi Air Pollution: EPCA Declares Public Health Emergency in Delhi-NCR.
The Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi claims to have distributed about 50 lakh anti-pollution masks among the schoolgoing children on Friday.
"Delhi has turned into a gas chamber due to smoke from crop burning in neighbouring states. It is very important that we protect ourselves from this toxic air. Through private & government schools, we have started distributing 50 lakh masks today," Kejriwal tweeted after distributing masks among the students.
"I urge all Delhiites to use them whenever needed," he added.
Earlier in the day, the EPCA had asked the governments of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to issue advisories asking public to minimise exposure to surroundings and take other measures 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.
The EPCA said the air quality of Delhi-NCR has deteriorated since Thursday and is now at the 'severe plus' category. "People are advised to ensure that they minimise personal exposure as far as possible, avoid physical exercises in the open till pollution levels are reduced and in particular minimise the exposure of children, the aged and vulnerable," it said.
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".
The EPC has directed that all construction activities in Delhi, Faridabad, Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Noida and Greater Noida should remain completely shut till the morning of November 5. The current ban on construction was only from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Similarly, hot-mix plants and 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.
The 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 the key.
"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.