Culture Wars/Current Controversies

New Delhi’s air pollution is so bad, officials are calling for a citywide lockdown

By Lauren Frayer, National Public Radio

NASHIK, India — India’s Supreme Court is calling for a lockdown in the capital, New Delhi. It’s because of a health emergency, but it’s not about COVID-19. It’s about air pollution.

At a hearing Monday, justices ordered authorities to halt all nonessential travel on roads in the national capital region. They also told them to close offices in the area, shifting tens of millions of people to work from home.

It’s unclear if or when such a lockdown would take effect, or how long it might last. Delhi’s air quality appeared to ease slightly Monday. The AQI is now in the low 400s on a 500-point scale. Last week, it was off the charts in some areas.

Delhi’s chief minister has indicated his willingness to impose a pollution-related lockdown but has said it would have minimal effect without similar measures from neighboring states. Officials from the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh plan to hold meetings Tuesday.

New Delhi’s schools are already closed this week because of air pollution that’s been about four times the safe limit. Construction sites are also on pause, which will ultimately slow the economy.

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