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India gives out 5M face masks


NEW DELHI: Five million New Delhi children will be given face masks by the government as the city battles heavy smog so toxic that it threatens to force schools to shut.

New Delhi — which has been ranked the most polluted city in the world — experienced hazardous levels of pollution on Friday afternoon, shooting up to as high as 743 particles of 2.5 per cubic meter of toxic substance on the air quality index in some areas.

Any level above 100 is considered unhealthy.

A bird flies past as Delhi’s sky line is seen enveloped in smog and dust in New Delhi, India, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. An expert panel in India’s capital has declared a health emergency due to air pollution choking the city, with authorities ordering schools closed until Nov. 5. AP PHOTO

If air pollution stays at this level for more than 48 hours, authorities would implement emergency measures for the first time this year, a Central Pollution Control Board official said.

Those measures include shutting schools, stopping construction work, banning trucks from entering the city, and imposing a rule whereby cars with odd and even number plates can only drive on alternate days.

On Friday, Delhi’s chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that authorities had started to distribute 5 million face masks to schoolchildren in the city, which is home to over 18 million people.

Earlier in the day, Kejriwal hit out at the governments of Punjab and Haryana, which he said contributed to New Delhi’s pollution as farmers in those areas burned crops despite bans.

New Delhi’s air is often bad at this time of year. In addition to crop burning, the smog worsens as people set off firecrackers to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.

Even before the heavy smog, the city’s government signaled that it would implement the odd-even car rule this month for the first time since 2016.


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Today’s Front Page January 27, 2020

Today’s Front Page January 27, 2020