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India closes coal-fired power plants as New Delhi engulfs in toxic smog

Indian regulators have shut down six of 11 coal-fired power plants within a 300km radius of New Delhi, as the capital has been shrouded in toxic fumes for nearly two weeks.

The Air Quality Management Commission also closed schools and colleges until further notice, banned private construction and restricted trucks from entering the city until November 21.

The temporary restrictions follow a warning from the Meteorological Department of India that meteorological conditions are meant to be hazardous air pollution is likely to exist.

India’s supreme court has ordered authorities to take steps to resolve the matter, potentially including a Covid-style lockdown.

Environmentalists say the temporary closures of thermal power plants will help reduce emissions but urge authorities to take stricter long-term measures to prevent bad air quality go like that. dangerous level.

Jyoti Pandey Lavakare, co-founder of Care for Air, a civil society group that advocates for stronger pollution control measures, and author of Breathing here is bad for your health. “Pollution is something they should be dealing with throughout the year, not in a knee-jerk way.”

“This is not an unspecified emergency,” she added. “This is something that happens every year without fail. Half a billion people on the Indo-Gangetic Plain are completely covered by this noxious smoke. “

New Delhi has been ranked as the world’s most polluted capital for three consecutive years in the World Air Quality report by IQ Air, a Swiss air technology company. Levels of dangerous fine particles, known as PM2.5, in the city were 16 times higher than those considered safe by the World Health Organization, with the air contaminated by a mixture of diesel emissions , industrial emissions, dust and smoke from burning agricultural waste.

Pollution isn’t just limited to the capital: 10 of the world’s 15 most polluted cities are in northern India, according to IQ Air. The Lancet medical journal estimates that air pollution in India causes 1 million deaths each year.

Although authorities have tried to ban polluting activities such as fireworks and stubble burning by farmers, enforcement is weak, and politicians are reluctant to suppress powerful interest groups.

Delhiites defied a ban on fireworks during the recent Diwali holiday, drawing praise from Hindu nationalists for resisting a rule they described as an attack on their religion.

“It’s not taken seriously,” Pandey said. “People don’t realize that there is a cumulative, irreversible harm to their bodies over the years.”

India’s pollution crisis coincides with its push – along with China – dilution COP26 agreement by emphasizing weaker language for phasing out coal-fired power.

New Delhi insists that it must expand the capacity of coal-fired power plants to meet the energy and development needs of the poor.

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