As a thick shroud of menacing grey haze continues to blanket Delhi, the Arvind Kejriwal government on Sunday announced various emergency measures to control the pollution level which has breached the safe limit by over 17 times at places.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who chaired an emergency cabinet meeting this afternoon, said that all construction and demolition activities within the city limit will remain suspended for five days.
The government has also decided to ban the use of diesel generators, except for the emergency services like hospitals, for next 10 days, Kejriwal told reporters after the meeting.
He said power connections will be provided even in unauthorised colonies to tackle the menace of DG sets. Power connection does not mean regularisation though, he said.
The Badarpur Thermal Power Plant (coal-based), one of the major sources of pollution in the city as identified by an IIT Kanpur study, will be shut for the next ten days, Kejriwal said. The transportation of fly ash has also been banned in the city.
The facility was completely shut last year as well but later made partially functional.
The AAP government was also mulling the possibility of bringing back the odd-even scheme.
Announcing the emergency measures, Kejriwal said that people need to come together to solve Delhi's pollution issue and not politicise it.
He announced the cabinet decision to close down schools for next three days and also appealed to people to stay indoors and if possible work from home considering the situation. .
"Schools will be closed for the next three days. Health department will issue the first pollution advisory tomorrow. We also appeal to people to stay indoors and work from home, if possible. We are also starting the preparation for odd-even. We will make an assessment in the next few days and implement it, if need be," he told reporters at his residence.
The other measures announced by Kejriwal include sprinkling of water on roads on a large scale from tomorrow, strict enforcement of ban on burning of leaves (and waste) in the open and a promise to begin vacuum cleaning of roads from November 10.
He said local sanitary inspectors will be taken to task if there are instances of waste burning in the open. The MCDs have been informed to take measures to douse fires in the landfill sites, he said.
Kejriwal stressed on the need to hammer out solutions together.
He also said that the extent of crop burning was way above than what was seen over the last few years.
"Government is not unprepared. No one thought crop burning will be of this scale and weather conditions are also inclement. Delhi was polluted from the beginning so the extra pollutants aggravated the situation," he said.
“Crop-burning will continue and so can’t expect relief soon,” he added.
Responding to a question on crop burning, Kejriwal said he was not point fingers at anyone. “We are not pointing fingers at anyone. We need to sit down and come out with a solution,” he said.
Kejriwal said the government will discuss with the Centre the possibility of engineering artificial rain in the city that has turned into a "gas chamber" mainly due to large-scale crop burning in Haryana and Punjab.
"We have asked the Chief Secretary and the Environment Secretary to work with the Centre and assess its possibility and effectiveness," he said.
The Chief Minister had yesterday described Delhi as a "gas chamber" and met Union Environment Minister Anil Dave to seek Centre's urgent intervention to deal with the challenge.
Doctors and experts say that besides spike in fresh cases, health complications have aggravated in people having a history of asthma, allergy or other related ailments.
"Earlier 15-20 per cent pollution-related ailment cases were reported at our hospital. But now these have gone up to 60 per cent.