Wed. Dec 1st, 2021

Indian capital’s air quality index (AQI) fell to 303 on a scale of 500 on Monday, down from 499 almost a week ago.

New Delhi has lifted a ban on construction activities as air quality has improved marginally, but schools and offices will remain closed until at least Wednesday, the Indian capital’s environment minister said.

Delhi’s air quality index (AQI) fell to 303 on a scale of 500 on Monday, down from 499 almost a week ago, when a dense haze hung over the city of about 20 million people.

Current AQI levels still indicate “very weak” conditions, according to government monitoring agencies.

INTERACTIVE- air pollution symptoms(Al Jazeera)

“Air quality is slowly improving,” Gopal Rai, the capital’s minister for environment, forestry and wildlife development, said at a news conference. “Workers were having problems, so we decided to resume construction.”

Rai said authorities will monitor construction sites to ensure builders follow government-imposed dust control measures.

In an interview with Reuters news agency late last week, Rai said the city would consider restricting private vehicles to driving on alternate days if severe air pollution continues to plague India’s capital.

Apart from the construction ban, the city government also closed schools and offices so that people could work from home.

Vehicles seen seen in smog on a highway in New Delhi [File: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

Rai told the news conference that the authorities would review the city’s air quality on November 24 and then decide whether to reopen schools and offices.

“We are watching closely,” the minister said. He also encouraged residents to use public transportation.

Vehicle emissions contributed to more than half of Delhi’s air pollution between October 24 and November 8, the Center for Science and Environment’s brainstorming earlier this month said.

New Delhi’s suffocating air has put more children with breathing problems in the hospital, doctors said last week, and the government has closed five power stations and extended school closures to curb the crisis.

Air quality deteriorates sharply during the winter months in Delhi, which is often regarded as the world’s most polluted capital. Pollutants resulting from the burning of crop residues, transportation, industries and coal plants outside the city tend to get trapped as temperatures drop during the winter.

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