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Schools closed for three days as pollution worsens in Indian capital

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
People ride on bicycles as heavy smog covers New Delhi, India, November 6, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Schools in the Indian capital New Delhi will be closed for the next three days following the government's announcement of an "emergency situation" due to the level of air pollution.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who chaired an emergency meeting of the state cabinet on Sunday, said there was also a plan to shut construction sites for five days to bring the situation under control.

"Emergency measures are needed to solve this problem together," Kejriwal said. "All construction and demolition in the city will be banned" for the next five days, he added.

Other measures announced include sprinkling water on main roads to suppress dust, shutting down a power plant and fighting fires at landfill sites.

Kejriwal advised people to stay indoors.

People walk on a road in heavy smog in New Delhi, India, November 6, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The official also blamed crop burning by farmers in neighboring states for the smog. "One can't expect relief (from pollution) over the next few days as more crop burning will happen in the next few days."

Most of Delhi's neighboring states are largely dependent on agriculture, with farmers resorting to crop-stubble burning before each sowing season. The move worsens air pollution over Delhi and its satellite towns.

Pollution sparks demonstration

On Sunday morning, hundreds of people, including many parents with their children, gathered around Jantar Mantar, New Delhi's major site for protests.

Indian protesters wearing protective masks take part in a rally urging immediate action to curb air pollution in New Delhi on November 6, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The reading for pollutants in the atmosphere has recently breached the 1,000 microgram mark for the first time in one neighborhood in southern Delhi, 10 times the level recommended by the World Health Organization.

New Delhi's air quality has steadily worsened as a result of rapid urbanization that brings pollution from diesel engines, coal-fired power plants and industrial emissions. It also suffers from atmospheric dust and pollution from open fires lit by the urban poor to cook food or keep warm.

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