Fog blankets Delhi-NCR as air pollution hits 'severe' levels

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A combination of smoke from stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana and moisture turned Delhi into a "gas chamber" today, prompting authorities to announce a series of preventive measures including a four-fold hike in parking fees and slashing of metro fares. The situation will be monitored hourly and after tomorrow, further decisions for Thursday would be taken after looking at the parameter.

By 10 am today, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) recorded "severe" air quality, meaning the intensity of pollution was extreme. The IMA also recommended the state government to close schools.

"Only if the political parties ruling Delhi would have spent as much time and energy on critical issues as they spend on fighting political battles, we would not be facing this environmental crisis once again", Mr Anupam said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had asked Manish Sisodia to consider shutting schools for a few days in view of the high pollution in the city. Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court said on Tuesday that stubble burning was the "main villain" behind the severe level of pollution in the Capital.

The Deputy Chief Minister also said if the situation worsened, the Government was ready to go ahead with measures for a Graded Action Plan (GRAP) - banning the entry of trucks, a ban on construction and reintroducing the odd-even formula for vehicular movement. "The use of vehicle pooling and public transport has been advised to the people apart from other measures to be taken", he said.

Also, all outdoor activities in schools, including morning and afternoon assemblies, have been suspended, he said.

He said that the Delhi government would take a final decision on the closure of schools and introduction of the odd-even auto rationing scheme after examining the report. "Teachers of primary classes will utilise this time in academic work and planning", it added.

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