The Delhi government decided on Monday to reopen primary classes from November 9 and revoke the order requiring 50 percent of its employees to work from home in view of improvements in the city's air quality over the last two days.
However, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai told a press conference that the operation of BS-III and BS-IV diesel four-wheelers in the national capital will continue to be banned under Phase 3 of the Plan. Graded Action Plan (GRAP).
The plan is a set of air pollution control measures to be followed in and around Delhi depending on the severity of the situation.
The Transportation Department said, in order, the pollution
"There has been a rapid improvement in the air pollution situation in Delhi and agricultural fires have also subsided. Therefore, it was decided to reopen primary schools from November 9 and abolish the order requiring 50 percent percent of government employees work from home.” said the minister.
School principals have welcomed the Delhi government's decision to restart primary school from Wednesday, although environmentalists have warned of " knee-jerk reactions".
"The education system in general has already been disrupted during the (COVID-19) pandemic which has caused prolonged school closures in the country. Teachers and students have embraced the shift from offline to online mode," he said. Alka Kapoor, director of Modern Public School at Shalimar Bagh.
Minister Ray said that the restrictions under the third phase of the GPA would remain in place. He said that private construction and demolition work would remain prohibited in Delhi.
Rai added that an additional 500 buses will be operated in the capital as part of the " Paryavaran Bus Sewa" campaign to bolster public transport.
As Delhi's air pollution declines, the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) ordered authorities on Sunday to lift the ban on crossing non-BS light diesel vehicles. VI in the region and the entry of trucks to the national capital imposed in Phase 4 of the GRAP.
It also banned construction work on public projects like roads, bridges, power transmission and pipelines in Delhi NCR.
The Commission for Total Quality Management (CAQM) was ordered to recommend the restrictions on Thursday.
Delhi's air quality was recorded in a very bad category for the third consecutive day on Monday, forecast agencies said, but it is likely to deteriorate further in the coming days due to poor weather conditions.
The 24-hour air quality index in the capital worsened from 339 on Sunday to 354 on Monday. They were 381 on Saturday.
GRAP classifies Delhi-NCR's air quality into four different stages: Stage 1 - 'Poor' (AQI 201-300); Stage 2 - " very poor" (AQI 301-400); Stage 3 - " severe" (AQI 401-450); and stage 4 - " severe plus" (AQI > 450).
Agricultural fires picked up in Punjab with 2,487 incidents reported on Monday compared to 599 the day before.
However, its share of PM2.5 pollution in Delhi fell from 18 percent on Sunday to 14 percent on Monday, according to data from the Indian Institute of Agricultural Research and SAFAR, a forecasting agency of the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences.
Smoke from agricultural fires are carried into the National Capital Region by transport-level winds that blow in the two lowest layers of the atmosphere: the troposphere and the stratosphere.
However, the restrictions will remain in phases 1 to 3 of the Global Action Plan.
High levels of pollution prompted the Delhi government to announce additional measures on Friday, including closing primary schools from Saturday and working from home for 50 percent of its staff.
According to an analysis last year by the Delhi Pollution Control Commission, people in the national capital breathe the worst air between November 1 and 15, when straw burning peaks and winter.
The Air Quality Index (AQLI) released by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago in June showed that Delhi residents could lose 10 years of life expectancy due to poor air quality.