Schools shut, health emergency declared as toxic haze shrouds Delhi

Delhi metro running amid dense haze and low visibility, in New Delhi. Photo: PTI

A Supreme Court-mandated panel declared a public health emergency in Delhi Friday as the Air Quality Index hit the 500-mark in several locations, and hovered close in many other areas. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also announced schools in the capital would be shut till November 5.

The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) also ordered a complete construction ban till November 5 in Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad and Greater Noida, along with a ban on the bursting of firecrackers during the winter season.

An AQI above 500 is considered “severe-plus emergency” category. AQI between 0-50 is considered “good”, 51-100 “satisfactory”, 101-200 “moderate”, 201-300 “poor”, 301-400 “very poor”, and 401-500 “severe”, a category in which Delhi’s air has been for the past three days.


Exposure to polluted air for such sustained periods of time can lead to breathing difficulties, lung damage and other adverse health effects, especially among children and the elderly.

Also read | Post Diwali, Delhi air quality drops to season’s worst

“We have to take this as a public health emergency as air pollution will have adverse health impact on all, particularly our children,” PTI quoted EPCA chairperson Bhure Lal as saying in his letter to the chief secretaries of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi.

On Friday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal distributed pollution masks to school children, along with blaming stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana for the poor air quality.

“Delhi has turned into a gas chamber due to smoke from crop burning in neighbouring states. It is very imp that we protect ourselves from this toxic air. Through pvt & govt schools, we have started distributing 50 lakh masks today. I urge all Delhiites to use them whenever needed,” he tweeted.

AQI this season in Delhi had been in the “very poor” category till Diwali, but hit “severe” levels on Tuesday. According to experts, stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana and the bursting of firecrackers on Diwali have led to the drop in Delhi’s air quality.

Also read | At 416, air quality remains ‘severe’ in Delhi