Air quality panel orders closure of all schools in Delhi-NCR


Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  The Commission for Air Quality Management for Delhi-NCR late Thursday ordered the 
closure of all schools in NCR districts, including those in UP, Haryana and Rajasthan, till further orders. The commission also directed the formation of a special taskforce in Delhi and in each of the NCR states to ensure that its directions are being enforced. 

The directions came after the Supreme Court pulled up the Delhi government over its failure to curb rising pollution levels and gave the Centre 24 hours to find a way to check if the measures are being implemented on ground. The CAQM on Thursday issued an order directing the formation of the dedicated taskforce and a revised set of restrictions that will be put in place in the national capital region. 

While schools have already been shut in Delhi, the CAQM directed that all schools, colleges, libraries and educational institutions in the NCR will remain physically closed till further orders. “Only online mode of teaching shall be allowed except for the purpose of conducting examinations or lab practicals, etc.” the order said. 

It further directed that industries in the region operating on non-PNG or other unapproved fuels will be allowed to operate only for eight hours a day from Monday to Friday. “These industries will have to remain closed for operations on Saturdays and Sundays.” 

The entry of trucks into Delhi, except for CNG/electric and those carrying essential items, will also continue to remain banned, the CAQM order said. As per the CAQM directions, the dedicated taskforce for Delhi and each state will be headed by the principal secretary/secretary (environment) while a member of the respective state pollution control board (SPCBs) will be the member of the taskforce as well. Besides, it will comprise technical representatives/scientists from the Central Pollution Control Board and a minimum of three such representatives from the SPCBs. 

Each of the taskforce will have to submit a compliance report on a fortnightly basis to the CAQM. “The taskforce shall strictly implement the directions issued by the commission from time to time and report compliance status on a fortnightly basis,” the order read. It also directed that besides the taskforce, the Delhi government/respective state governments may constitute inter-departmental teams and take legal provisions. “The chairman of the taskforce may also co-opt suitable member (s) towards effective implementation of orders,” the order read. 

Centre urged to convene meeting of NCR states
Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai on Friday wrote to Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav urging him to convene a meeting of Delhi and NCR states to formulate a joint action plan to address the rising pollution levels. “I request for a joint meeting of all NCR states to formulate a comprehensive plan to bring down pollution levels in the region. As per a recent report by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), 69% of Delhi’s pollution is from external sources and not from within Delhi and hence a joint plan is essential to address the problem,” said Rai in the letter. Rai had written to Yadav urging the same even last month. 

Haryana govt to shut schools in four districts 
The Haryana government has ordered closure of all schools in Gurugram, Faridabad, Sonipat and Jhajjar districts adjoining Delhi due to air pollution. The government also ordered a ban on all construction activities in the NCR, except non-polluting activities such as plumbing, interior decoration, electrical work and carpentry. In view of the ‘deteriorating air quality’ in Delhi-NCR, “all schools in four NCR districts of Haryana adjoining Delhi, that is Gurugram, Faridabad, Sonipat and Jhajjar, shall remain closed till further orders,” said the order issued by the additional chief secretary of the state’s Environment and Climate Change Department. 

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