Children cowering in homes as air pollution becomes more toxic in India's capital

05 Nov 2023 06:28pm
Commuters make their way along a road amid heavy smoggy conditions in New Delhi on Nov 5 - Photo by Arun Sankar / AFP
Commuters make their way along a road amid heavy smoggy conditions in New Delhi on Nov 5 - Photo by Arun Sankar / AFP

NEW DELHI - Children are cowering in homes in Delhi as schools have been shut for a week after air quality worsened in the city and its surrounding areas.

Air pollution in the Indian capital turns more toxic during winter months, leading to a spike in respiratory and other health problems for its population.

As a thick smog with acrid smell enveloped the city, Friday saw the annual pollution season's first school closure.

On Sunday, the government decided to extend the closure for primary schools.

"As pollution levels continue to remain high, primary schools in Delhi will stay closed till Nov 10. For Grade 6-12, schools are being given the option of shifting to online classes," Delhi education minister Atishi Marlena said.

Children, women and the elderly are seen more at risk from Delhi's foul air, but athletes are not immune to it.

The Sri Lankan cricket team cancelled its practice session at a Delhi stadium on Saturday after doctors advised them to stay indoors, while Bangladeshi players did the same on Friday.

The cricket teams are in India to participate in the 2023 World Cup.

Related Articles:

The environmental crisis affects Delhi as well as its satellite cities Faridabad, Gurugram, Ghaziabad and Noida, which have a combined population of more than 33 million and form the National Capital Region (NCR).

Cooler winter temperatures trap pollutants nearer to the ground as the level of PM10, which is particulate matter 10 micrometres or less in diameter, and PM2.5, particles so fine that they can enter the lungs and bloodstream, rises many times than the limit considered safe for humans.

The factors making the Indian capital region a hazardous place to live in include polluting industries, fumes from millions of vehicles, dust from construction activity and poor waste management.

It gets worse as 30 million tonnes of paddy stubble is burnt by farmers in the neighbouring states of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in September and October.

More toxic matter is released into the atmosphere when thousands of tonnes of firecrackers are burst during Diwali festival celebrations.

A pollution control agency in Delhi last month announced a complete ban on the manufacture, storage or sale of firecrackers across the city until Jan 1.

The air quality index (AQI) deteriorated to around 450 on Sunday morning whereas the level recommended as safe should be below 50. - BERNAMA