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Delhi Air Pollution: Schools, Colleges to Remain Shut Till Further Orders, Says Environment Minister

In view of high pollution levels in Delhi, the city’s Environment Minister Gopal Rai on Wednesday said his government has decided to shut schools, colleges and other educational institutions till further orders and extend the ban on construction and demolition activities till November 21. The Delhi government has also decided to extend work-from-home for its employees till Sunday.

At a press conference after a high-level meet with officials of the departments concerned, Rai said, “1,000 private CNG buses will be hired to strengthen the public transport system. The process will start on Thursday.” “Schools, colleges, libraries, training centres will remain shut till further orders. We have banned the entry of trucks carrying non-essential items,” he said. Rai said the Delhi Metro and the Delhi Transport Corporation have written to the Delhi Disaster Management Authority to allow people to travel in metro trains and public vehicles standing.

The Transport Department has provided a list of diesel and petrol vehicles older than 10 years and 15 years, respectively, to the traffic police to stop them from plying on roads. The traffic police have been directed to create a special task force to monitor congestion. The drive to check pollution-under-control certificates will be intensified, the minister said.

“Machines of the fire brigade will sprinkle water at 13 pollution hotspots in Delhi in addition to the 372 tankers already deployed in the city for this purpose, he said. Ahead of a Supreme Court hearing on the air pollution issue, the Commission for Air Quality Management late on Tuesday night directed that schools, colleges and educational institutions in the National Capital Region will remain closed until further orders, allowing only online mode of education.

It also said that only five of the 11 thermal power plants located within a 300 km radius of Delhi will remain operational till November 30. The commission directed Delhi and the NCR states to stop construction and demolition activities in the region till November 21, barring railway services/railway stations, metro rail corporation services, including stations, airports and inter-state bus terminals and national security/defence-related activities/ projects of national importance subject to strict compliance of the Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules and dust control norms.

State governments in NCR have been directed to allow work from home for at least 50 per cent of their employees in offices in NCR till Sunday and encourage private establishments to follow suit. Trucks carrying non-essential items have been banned from entering Delhi till Sunday. “All industries in NCR still using unapproved fuels shall be closed by respective governments with immediate effect… NCR states and GNCTD shall enforce a strict ban on the use of diesel generator sets, except for emergency services,” the panel said.

It directed the Delhi government to expeditiously procure and put on the road an adequate number of CNG buses at the earliest. The Delhi government had earlier ordered the closure of physical classes in schools, colleges and other educational institutions for a week from Monday.

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