Daily Management Review

Long Standing Toxic Smog forces Delhi Authorities to Consider Shutting Down Schools


Long Standing Toxic Smog forces Delhi Authorities to Consider Shutting Down Schools
As a bout of toxic smog stretches into a second month, authorities in Delhi are considering shutting schools in the sprawling Indian capital.
The pollution levels in this megacity has been suffering record levels of pollution which exceed recommended WHO guidelines by between 15 and 30 times and is already the world’s most polluted by some measures.
The smog is predicted to last for months to come. Smog is a combination of exhaust from cars and lorries, dust, smoke from fires and industrial output which is intensified by cold temperatures.
At the Paris climate talks and in the lead-up to them, India has taken one of the hardest public lines which are now reaching a climax in Paris. Evoking the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi India was notably late in submitting its national plan on curbing emissions, which focused on renewable energy.
It would be “morally wrong” to let rich countries off the hook for their historical emissions, Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, has publicly argued. This line has been continued by India’s negotiating team at the talks.
In Beijing officials have ordered a virtual shutdown to prevent harm and cut soaring pollution levels. The levels of pollution in Delhi have been consistently higher than in Beijing. 

The problem which has been building up over years and authorities in Delhi have been struggling to formulate a coherent strategy to tackle the problem.  
As in interim measure, the local state government in Delhi had announced last week the cars with license plates ending in odd and even numbers to drive only on alternate days. Two coal-burning power stations have also been shut.
 “We will only take decisions after consulting schools. We have 2.6 million children in Delhi schools, they are big stakeholders. There has been a proposal to shut schools between 1 to 15 January. We are considering it,” Manish Sisodia, Delhi education minister, told local media.
Many of the school going children in the city walk to school along busy roads at peak times for pollution and studies in Delhi have shown the smog is causing irreversible damage to the health of millions of children. Many schools have already restricted outdoors activities.
The acute pollution of recent weeks had made swift action essential even as the local government had been waiting to improve public transport before restricting car use.
Observers are sceptical that these new efforts will have any effect owing to the poor record of authorities enforcing headline measures.
Earlier this year chaos reigned on the streets of the Indian capital with traffic jams at checkpoints as a ban on diesel vehicles more than 10 years old was being implemented. The ban was effectively withdrawn.
Successive governments at state and national level have failed to construct bypasses even as around 70,000 trucks cross Delhi every night adding to the pollution. Attempts to increase the numbers of buses have failed.

India has opposed the inclusion of a 1.5C temperature limit in draft of the Paris Summit that many of the poorest nations want. Delhi, along with China and Saudi Arabia prefer a ceiling of 2C that would allow them to  burn fossil fuels for longer.