NEW DELHI: Primary schools would be closed in Delhi on 8 November in view of the deteriorating quality of air in the city, the government today said, asserting that the administration was ready to take a slew of measures to tackle the problem.
It may reintroduce its odd-even scheme to regulate vehicular movement, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said.
Under the formula, odd and even numbered vehicles ply on alternate days.
As a thick haze hung over Delhi, leaving people gasping for breath, Sisodia said the Delhi government had also asked all schools to stop outdoor activities, including morning assemblies.
"Primary schools in Delhi, including private ones, will remain closed tomorrow. We are monitoring the situation on an hourly basis and a further decision on the measures will be taken on Thursday," he told reporters here.
The decision for school closure was taken after the government received reports from authorities concerned that the PM10 level was recorded at 436 -- air quality described by Sisodia as "close to severe" -- at 4.30 pm today.
The government has also issued a health advisory for high risk people, including children, the elderly and those suffering from asthma or heart ailments.
"We appeal to the people of Delhi to avoid morning and evening walks," he said.
The situation following the alarming pollution levels in the city was reviewed by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal at a meeting with senior officials, including those from the Health and Environment departments.
"If we technically see, the situation is not severe as yet. If PM10 reaches 500 ug/m3, the situation is then called severe. We can say that the air pollution level is close to severe," the deputy chief minister said, adding that the situation was "visually worse".
Sisodia also said if the situation worsened, the government was ready to go ahead with measures for a Graded Action Plan - banning the entry of trucks, a ban on construction and reintroducing the odd-even formula for vehicular movement.
Sisodia said the government had also advised citizens not to burn dry leaves, crop residue, wood, coal etc.
"The use of car pooling and public transport has been advised to the people apart from other measures to be taken," he said.
The Directorate of Education (DoE) has also issued a circular to schools about the closure.
"In the light of the deteriorating air quality in the city, classes nursery to fifth in all government, government aided, private, MCD, NDMC, DCB and unrecognised schools will remain closed tomorrow.
"All outdoor activities will remain suspended for students of classes 6 to 12. All teachers, however, shall attend school as usual. Teachers of primary classes will utilise this time in academic work and planning," it added.
The combination of smoke from stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana and moisture turned Delhi into a "gas chamber" today, prompting the Supreme Court mandated green body EPCA to announce a series of preventive measures, including a four- fold hike in parking fees and slashing of Metro fares in off- peak hours.
The smog brought down visibility levels, affecting flight and train operations. The heavy air permeated living rooms and even underground Metro stations.
The air quality index was in the "severe" category -- with a score of 448 in a scale of 500 -- for the second time this year.
Diwali fireworks had increased pollution levels on October 20.