Delhi Pollution Crisis: CM Kejriwal announces school shutdown in Delhi for a week

Emergency measures are not a magic bullet; systemic and sustained change in Delhi’s air quality is needed, Anumita Roychowdhury of CSE says

By DTE Staff
Published: Saturday 13 November 2021
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal announcing a week-long school shutdown.
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal announcing a week-long school shutdown. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal announcing a week-long school shutdown.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal November 13, 2021 announced a week-long shutdown of schools across the national capital starting from November 15 in response to the air pollution emergency in the megacity.

According to the announcement, schools will be physically closed for a week, construction activities will not be allowed, government offices will operate from home and private offices will be issued an advisory to move to ‘work from home’ where possible.

Kejriwal went into a huddle with at an emergency meeting November 13 with his deputy Manish Sisodia, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain, Environment Minister Gopal Rai and the Delhi Chief Secretary.

His move came after the air quality in Delhi remained in the ‘severe’ category on the same day, with the Air Quality Index (AQI) at 499, according to System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) under the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Research and Advocacy, Centre For Science and Environment, said the latest smog episode was an unusually prolonged one at the time of early winter.

The Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) measures should have already kicked in automatically to respond to the crisis, which was a health emergency, Roychowdhury said. 

“Emergency actions only help to further contain the further worsening of the situation. They are not magic bullets and are not going to fix the problem,” she noted.

Roychowdhury added that this was a wakeup call as to why the administration needed to wake up and speed up the larger systemic changes that were needed for more sustained improvement in air quality to prevent a recurrence of such smog episodes.

A Bench led by Justice Dhananjay Chandrachud, the Chief Justice of India, had observed November 13 morning that Delhi must go into a lockdown for a couple of days. The bench made the remarks while hearing a petition about the worsening air quality situation in the national capital. 

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