NEW DELHI: The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) late Tuesday night directed that schools, colleges and educational institutions in the National Capital Region will remain closed until further orders, allowing only online mode of education.
It also said that only five of the 11 thermal power plants located within 300 km radius of Delhi, NTPC, Jhajjar; Mahatma Gandhi TPS, CLP Jhajjar; Panipat TPS, HPGCL; Nabha Power Ltd. TPS, Rajpura and Talwandi Sabo TPS, Mansa, will remain operational till November 30.
The commission directed Delhi and the NCR states to stop construction and demolition activities in the region till November 21, barring "railway services/railway stations, metro rail corporation services, including stations, airports and inter-state bus terminals (ISBTS) and national security/defence-related activities/ projects of national importance" subject to strict compliance of the C&D Waste Management Rules and dust control norms.
Trucks carrying non-essential items have been banned from entering Delhi till Sunday in a bid to contain the spiralling air pollution levels.
The commission had held a meeting on Tuesday with senior officials of Delhi and NCR states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan in connection with the severe air pollution in the region ahead of a Supreme Court hearing on the matter.
"All public and private schools, colleges and educational institutions in NCR shall remain closed until further orders allowing only online mode of education," the CAQM directions read.
NCR state governments have been directed to allow work from home (WFH) for at least 50 percent of their staff in offices in NCR till Sunday and encourage private establishments to follow suit.
"All industries in NCR still using unapproved fuels shall be closed by respective governments with immediate effect. NCR States and GNCTD shall enforce a strict ban on use of DG sets, except for emergency services," the panel said.
Authorities in NCR have been ordered to ensure that no diesel and petrol vehicles older than 10 years and 15 years, respectively, are found plying on road.
The Delhi government has been directed to expeditiously procure and put on road adequate number of CNG buses at the earliest.
Chief Secretaries of Delhi and NCR states have been directed to monitor the implementation of the directions on a regular basis and file a compliance report before the commission on Monday.
The Delhi government had ordered the closure of physical classes in schools, colleges and other educational institutions for a week from Monday.
All government offices, agencies and autonomous bodies, except those involved in essential services, have been asked to work from home.
Meanwhile, Bhartiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait on Tuesday said farmers or stubble burning should not be blamed for air pollution, citing a Supreme Court observation.
The Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) national spokesperson, who has been one of the most prominent faces of the protests at Delhi borders against the Centre's farm laws, also demanded an apology from those holding the farming community responsible for pollution woes.
"Those labelling farmers as villains for air pollution due to stubble burning must apologise to farmers. The Supreme Court has also said it is not right to hold farmers responsible because only 10 per cent of the pollution is caused by stubble and that too for one-and-a-half to two months," Tikait tweeted in Hindi.
Tikait's BKU is part of the farmers' collective Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), which is spearheading the protests against three central farm laws at Delhi borders since November 2020, demanding their withdrawal and a legal guarantee on minimum support price for crops.
Air quality in parts of north India, particularly Delhi NCR, deteriorates to levels that impact human health during winters.
Farm fires for stubble burning are considered among other contributors like industrial and vehicular emissions and fire crackers for increased air pollution.