Delhi temporarily shuts coal plants to combat air pollution

India stepped up efforts to combat high levels of pollution in New Delhi that threaten the lives of residents and others nearby, ordering a temporary halt to operations of five power stations and longer school closures.

The order to temporarily shut five coal-fired power plants around New Delhi came from a panel of the federal environment ministry.

There was a "compelling" need to ensure the air quality did not deteriorate any further, the ministry's Commission for Air Quality Management said in its order.

The panel, which has banned trucks carrying non-essential goods and halted construction in Delhi and neighbouring cities, also extended until further notice a closure of schools the Delhi government had ordered for a week on November 13.

At least half of government employees should work from home until November 21, it added.

One of the world's most polluted capitals, New Delhi battles chronic winter smog each year as falling temperatures trap deadly pollutants from power plants outside it, along with fumes from vehicles and garbage burnt in the open.

The air quality index of 386 on a scale of 500 as of November 17 was a sign of "very poor" conditions that threaten respiratory illness on prolonged exposure. However, a "severe" reading of 499 earlier this month showed even healthy people at risk.

November usually brings a worsening of pollution, with a surge in the concentration of tiny airborne particles, partly because farmers burn crop waste ahead of a new sowing season.

Known as PM 2.5 for their size of 2.5 microns, the particles are small enough to enter the bloodstream reaching the lungs.


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