The Indian Supreme Court approved a lockdown in New Delhi due to extremely high air pollution on Thursday. However, air pollution remains extremely high in the Indian capital.
The New Dehli schools have been closed to prevent children from going out while the local authorities also planned to ban all non-essential travel on the roads of the capital. In addition, India has stopped six of the 11 coal-fired power plants within a 300 km radius of New Delhi. All the restriction measures reportedly will be valid till November 21.
"If air pollution levels stay high, we will look at new measures like the odd-even (vehicle) system," Gopal Rai, the capital's Minister for Environment, Forest, and Wildlife Development said
The concentration of small airborne particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter, known as PM 2.5, neared 300 micrograms per cubic meter in some parts of the city, India's main environmental monitoring agency SAFAR said. Meanwhile, The World Health Organization designates the maximum safe level as 25.
“This is something that happens every single year without fail. Half a billion people on the Indo-Gangetic Plain get completely shrouded by this toxic smog.” Jyoti Pande Lavakare co-founder of Care for Air, a civil society group that advocates for stronger pollution control measures said.
The reason for the poor air condition is the heavy traffic and the burning of the fields, which farmers practice at the end of the season. Every autumn the Indian capital is marked by a sharp deterioration in air quality: according to Indian scientists, inhaling such air is equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes a day.
"We'll see if there's a need for a complete lockdown to tackle pollution. But these measures will not work if Delhi's neighboring cities do not reciprocate," Gopal Rai added.
According to IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company, New Delhi is considered the world’s most polluted capital city in the world.