Dangerous air from Indian capital ruins school back as pandemic restrictions are lowered

For Hands Kumar

NEW DELHI, Nov 8 (Reuters) – Toxic smog engulfing New Delhi persuaded many students to stay home rather than return to schools, which reopened on Monday after authorities eased restrictions imposed when the New Delhi pandemic COVID-19 struck India for the first time in March last year.

“Pollution in Delhi is dangerous. As parents we are afraid to send our children to school,” tweeted one parent, Kamlesh Sharma.

New Delhi has the worst air quality of any capital, but even by its standards, the last few days have been extraordinarily bad.

For the air to be considered safe, the Air Quality Index, which has a scale of up to 500, should be below 50. In New Delhi on Monday it was 385, in dangerous territory. That was a marginal improvement over the 451 recorded last week, as moderate winds helped disperse some of the pollution.

While some schools had resumed classes for the upper grades, students 14 and younger could return for the first time on Monday as part of a staggered reopening. However, many schools reported low attendance due to parental fears about dangerous air and coronavirus risks.

“After COVID, pollution has become a great threat to public health, especially for children and the elderly,” said Ashok Agarwal, national president of the Parents Association of India, expressing frustration at the lack of enforcement. and political will to improve Delhi’s air.

Airborne pollutants can cause cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, such as lung cancer. In India, toxic air kills more than a million people a year.

The severe deterioration in air quality over the past week was caused by farmers who violated the stubble-burning ban in agricultural states surrounding the capital, as well as people who ignored the ban on fireworks to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.

(Additional reporting from Mayank Bhardwaj; edited in Spanish by Carlos Serrano)


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