The Indian government has declared severe levels of toxic air pollution in Delhi an “emergency situation” as administrators announce a plan to temporarily shut construction sites and a coal-fired power station to bring the situation under control.
Schools in the capital will be closed for three days and traffic may be rationed, following six days of heavy smog and concentrations of harmful particles so high they cannot be measured by most air quality instruments.
The level of PM2.5 pollutants, which are the most harmful because they can reach deep into the lungs and breach the blood-brain barrier, have reached at least 999 in parts of the city this week, more than 16 times the safe limit of 60.
On Sunday, Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, announced emergency measures aimed at protecting residents, including a five-day ban on construction and demolition, thought to be a major contributor to pollution levels.
Bulldozers are to be used to put out fires at the Bhalswa landfill, which constantly smoulders.
Kejriwal said: “People should stay home as much as they can [and] work from home.”
A coal-fired power station in Badarpur, south-east Delhi, will stop operating for 10 days, along with diesel generators in the city.
Kejriwal has called on neighbouring states to enforce laws against burning agricultural waste.