11/07/2016, 17.12
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As pollution engulfs Delhi, 1,800 schools shut down

With Diwali, pollution levels in Delhi hit the highest point in 17 years. On 2 October, India ratified the Paris Climate Agreement, but does not seem hard pressed to implement it.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Air quality in the Indian capital has almost reached its worst point in 17 years.

In view of the situation, about 1,800 municipal schools have shut and 900,000 pupils sent home for three days because of pollution levels enhanced by celebrations associated with Diwali, the Festival of Lights, a time when revellers light fireworks and oil lamps.

The festival, which ended last Thursday (3 November), raised the level of fine particles (PM2.5) to 800 micrograms per cubic metre, 90 times WHO’s limits.

In addition to the school shutdown, Delhi authorities announced other measures against the emergency situation, such as a five-day ban on construction work for, and closing the Badarpur power plant for ten days.

Experts doubt this will be enough to clean up the city. “The measures taken are fine, but unless there’s restraint on the numbers of vehicles, including trucks, it won’t be helpful,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

In 2014, WHO ranked the Indian capital as the most polluted city in the world. “The air pollution level in Delhi has reached a stage where people should evacuate the city,” said Ravi Agarwal, director of Toxics Link, an environmental NGO. For him, the situation “is unimaginable”.

Air pollution is the leading cause of premature death in India. WHO figures show that about 620,000 people perish every year from pollution-related diseases.

In December 2015, world leaders agreed to COP21 negotiations to keep global warming below 2° centigrade. On 2 October, India ratified the Paris Climate Agreement, which came into effect on 4 November; however, it still seems reluctant to implement it.

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