The Delhi government on Wednesday rescheduled the December winter break of all schools and said it will be now from November 9 to November 18 as the air pollution in the national capital continues to remain in the ‘severe’ category. Earlier, due to the deteriorating air quality, holidays were announced from November 3 to November 10.
"In the wake of implementation of GRAP-IV measures due to Severe Air Quality prevailing in Delhi and seeing that no respite from such adverse weather conditions in near future is predicted by the IMO, the Winter Break for the session 2023-24 is ordered to be preponed so that schools can be totally closed and both children and teachers can stay at home," the circular stated.
"Accordingly, all schools shall observe Winter Break wef. 09th November 2023 (tomorrow) to 18th November 2023 (Saturday)," it added.
The air quality in Delhi and its suburbs dropped to the severe category again on Wednesday morning, with smoke from post-harvest paddy straw burning in neighbouring states accounting for one-third of the air pollution in the national capital. The city's Air Quality Index (AQI) stood at 421, worsening from 395 at 4pm on Tuesday.
Despite a marginal dip, the concentration of PM2.5, fine particulate matter capable of penetrating deep into the respiratory system and triggering health problems, exceeded the government-prescribed safe limit of 60 micrograms per cubic metre by seven to eight times in the capital.
It was 30 to 40 times the healthy limit of 15 micrograms per cubic metre set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Several cities across the Indo-Gangetic plains reported hazardous air quality. Neighbouring Ghaziabad (382), Gurugram (370), Noida (348), Greater Noida (474), and Faridabad (396) also reported hazardous air quality.
Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party accused the Haryana government of being the “biggest culprit” behind pollution in Delhi, a day after the Supreme Court observed that there cannot be a “political battle” over the issue all the time.
Amid a spike in pollution levels in Delhi-NCR, the apex court on Tuesday directed Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to ensure crop residue burning was stopped "forthwith", saying it cannot let "people die" due to pollution.
Earlier in the day, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said polluted air is not restricted by borders. He claimed that people in his state as well as in Delhi were suffering with Punjab reporting several cases of crop-residue burning.
Addressing a press conference, AAP MLA Durgesh Pathak said the Union environment minister was busy with election campaigning at a time when Delhi is facing a pollution crisis.
“They have left the public to fend for themselves. We are thankful to the Supreme Court for their decision. There are five states involved -- Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan -- but it is very unfortunate that at a time when the apex court is discussing such a serious matter, only Delhi and Punjab submitted affidavits but no other states submitted theirs,” news agency PTI quoted Pathak as saying.