India to Halt Some Thermal Plants to Curb Delhi’s Toxic Air


India has directed six thermal power plants located around Delhi to shut down until the end of this month as part of measures to clean some of the world’s dirtiest air, as a cloud of smog has enveloped the city for nearly two weeks.

The federal Environment Ministry also barred the entry of trucks except those carrying essential items into the National Capital Region of Delhi and encouraged citizens to work from home to curb pollution. The decision came after officials from the Delhi government and the neighboring states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana met to discuss measures to check the soaring pollution. 

India’s Supreme Court on Monday called for urgent restrictions on vehicular movement and industrial activities in and around the capital. The city has ordered schools to only teach online until Nov. 20, halted construction activities and asked some government employees to work from home after the top court called the situation an “emergency” on Saturday.

A thick blanket of of toxic haze is an annual phenomenon in the northern city and its surroundings, especially as winter arrives and temperatures dip. Politicians and authorities have squabbled over a solution for years, with dialogue picking up only when the pollution soars. However, as the pollution levels ebb the debate dies down and the issue has never caused any serious political fallout.

The toxic air quality across several Indian cities is driven by a combination of factors, including vehicular and factory emissions, road dust, construction activities and stubble burning by farmers.