Delhi government orders 3-day school shutdown over smog

A group of men playing cricked in heavy smog in New Delhi on Nov 6, 2016.
A group of men playing cricked in heavy smog in New Delhi on Nov 6, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Schools in the Indian capital will be closed for the next three days, the Delhi state government said Sunday (Nov 6), as the city struggles with one of the worst spells of air pollution in recent years.

"Emergency measures are needed to solve this problem together," state chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said.

"All construction and demolition in the city will be banned for next five days. All schools will be closed for the next three days in Delhi," he added.

Thick smog has blanketed the capital for days, with local and central authorities meeting to resolve the crisis.

Kejriwal, who chaired an emergency meeting of the state cabinet, advised people to stay indoors as much as possible and work from home if they could.

Other measures announced by the government include fighting fires at landfill sites, sprinkling water on main roads to suppress dust and shutting down a power plant.

The chief minister on Saturday compared the state to a "gas chamber," primarily blaming crop-burning by farmers in neighbouring states for the smog.

New Delhi's air quality has steadily worsened over the years, a result of rapid urbanisation that brings pollution from diesel engines, coal-fired power plants and industrial emissions.

The reading for pollutants in the atmosphere recently breached the 1,000 microgram mark for the first time in one neighbourhood in south Delhi - 10 times the World Health Organisation's recommended level.