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Air worsens as CNG, electric trucks allowed, govt offices to also reopen

Air worsens as CNG, electric trucks allowed, govt offices to also reopen

New Delhi: Even as the Capital's air quality quickly dipped into the latter half of the "very poor" category due to slow surface winds and low temperatures, the Delhi government on Wednesday announced that it will allow schools and colleges to reopen for physical classes from November 29 onwards and reopen government offices for staffers as well.

The authorities also extended the ban on the entry of trucks (excepting those for essential services) into the city till December 3 but modified the orders to allow CNG and electric trucks into the city from November 27, announced Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai, who on Tuesday claimed credit for the Delhi government's policies as the city recorded its best air in 22 days — still in the poor category.

The city's 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) was recorded at 361 on Wednesday. According to India Meteorological Department, Delhi recorded a minimum temperature of 9.2 degrees Celsius, this season's lowest so far. The maximum temperature settled at 28.8 degrees Celsius.

Neighbouring Faridabad (367), Ghaziabad (366), Greater Noida (312), Gurgaon (305) and Noida (325) also saw a dip in air quality on Wednesday. A slight improvement is likely from November 27 with an increase in local surface wind speed. "With the onset of winter, local weather is likely to be the dominating (factor) in determining air quality," SAFAR said.

But citing the "improvement" in the air quality, the Delhi government on Wednesday decided to resume physical classes in schools, colleges and other educational institutions and reopen government offices from November 29 — urging government staffers to use public transport as much as possible.

Gopal Rai was speaking to reporters after a meeting to review curbs to tackle air pollution, when he said, "We hired private CNG buses recently. We have decided to use them to ferry employees from colonies such as Gulabi Bagh and Nimri Colony. A majority of government employees live in these areas," he said.

The government will also start a shuttle bus service from the Delhi Secretariat to ITO and Indraprastha metro stations for its employees. "The air quality has improved over the last three days. The city's AQI is similar to pre-Diwali days," he said.

The ban on construction and demolition activities was lifted on Monday in view of an improvement in the air quality and inconvenience caused to workers.

Rai said violation of the 14-point dust control guidelines at construction and demolition sites will lead to immediate termination of work and a penalty. Authorities have stopped work at 105 out of the 1,221 sites inspected so far, the minister added.

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