The Delhi government has ordered all schools to close immediately and bring forward vacations that are normally scheduled between December and January
In response to the ongoing toxic smog that has enveloped New Delhi for six consecutive days, the Directorate of Education in the city has announced the closure of schools for a winter break. The break is scheduled to take place from November 9 to November 18. This decision was made during a meeting chaired by Environment Minister Gopal Rai and attended by Education Minister Atishi, Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot, and other senior Delhi government officials.
The reason for this break is the adverse weather conditions, primarily the smog, which has been causing health concerns and disruptions in daily life. It appears that no significant improvement in the weather conditions is expected in the coming days, necessitating this temporary closure of schools to protect the health and well-being of students and staff.
The decision to advance the winter vacation, which is typically held in December-January, has been made to safeguard the health of children in light of the toxic smog in New Delhi. The November 9-18 holiday will be adjusted against the usual December-January break.
Earlier, on Monday, Mr. Rai had announced that all Delhi schools had been instructed to suspend physical classes, with the exception of those in Class 10 and 12, until the end of the week due to alarmingly high air pollution levels.
Efforts by the Delhi government to mitigate the hazardous air quality have been largely unsuccessful. The Air Quality Index (AQI) this morning stood at 421, a significant increase from 395 at 4 pm on Tuesday.
In the National Capital Region, Noida recorded an AQI of 409, while Gurugram reported a level of 370.
The levels of PM2.5, which can deeply penetrate the respiratory system and trigger health issues, still exceed the government’s limit of 60 micrograms per cubic meter by eight times. This is 30-40 times the limit recommended by the World Health Organization.
As part of anti-pollution measures, the fourth stage of the Graded Response Action Plan has been activated, including the ban on diesel trucks and construction activities, among other steps.
The Delhi government also announced the return of the odd-even rule, a traffic restriction based on the last digit of the registration number, which was set to be reinstated for a week after Diwali. However, there are now uncertainties surrounding the scheme. The Aam Aadmi Party, which rules Delhi, stated that a decision on implementing the scheme would only be made after the Supreme Court’s order is thoroughly examined.
The Supreme Court, while hearing multiple petitions on the air quality crisis, referred to such measures as “optics” and urged the governments of Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh to collaborate in addressing and resolving the problem. The focus remains on tackling farm fires, which are a major contributor to air pollution. The court stressed the urgency of stopping stubble burning and called for immediate action on this front.