The "odd-even" rule will come into effect in Delhi from November 4 and extend till November 15, Chief Minister Arvind Kejrwal told reporters today, while assuring commuters that there would be no surge pricing during that period. The Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) flagship pollution control programme, the "odd-even" scheme was first introduced in 2016. This will be its third iteration. Mr Kejriwal praised earlier instances of the scheme and said its success in bringing down air pollution levels was down to the people of Delhi who realised its importance.
"Notifications for 'odd-even' have been sent and will be effective in Delhi from Monday. I have held review meetings with all departments to ensure readiness. All cab companies have been instructed not to levy surge pricing... they have promised cooperation in this regard," Arvind Kejriwal said.
"I also appeal to all auto drivers to run only by meters. We have fulfilled all your requests and ask that you also cooperate with the public," he added.
In addition, the Chief Minister also confirmed staggered office timings for government offices during the 'odd-even' period - 9.30 am and 10.30 am.
Earlier today the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), a Supreme Court-mandated body, declared a public health emergency after pollution levels in the national capital slipped to "severe plus" or "emergency" levels late Thursday night, for the first time since January.
Mr Kejriwal, who has blamed stubble burning by farmers in Punjab and Haryana for the increase in pollution in Delhi, described the city as a "gas chamber" and distributed breathing masks to school children.
"Delhi has turned into a gas chamber due to smoke from crop burning in neighbouring states. It is very important that we protect ourselves from this toxic air. Through private and government schools, we have started distributing 50 lakh masks today. I urge all Delhites to use them whenever needed," Mr Kejriwal wrote on Twitter.
He also urged students to write to "Captain uncle and Khattar uncle", referring to Captain Amarinder Singh and Manohar Lal Khattar, Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana, respectively. "Please write letters to Captain uncle and Khattar uncle and say, 'Please think about our health'," Mr Kejriwal said.
The Delhi government has directed that all schools in the city will remain closed till November 5. Construction activity has also been banned, as has the bursting of firecrackers during winter.
Delhi has turned into a gas chamber due to smoke from crop burning in neighbouring states— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) November 1, 2019
It is very imp that we protect ourselves from this toxic air. Through pvt & govt schools, we have started distributing 50 lakh masks today
I urge all Delhiites to use them whenever needed pic.twitter.com/MYwRz9euaq
Air quality in Delhi has plummeted post-Diwali, which Chief Minister Kejriwal said was the "lowest in five years". According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the Air Quality Index (AQI) recorded 412 this morning, which falls in the "very severe" category.
According to the data, the contribution of stubble burning to the haze and air pollution in Delhi-NCR was 35 per cent on Wednesday, 24 per cent on Thursday and is likely to be 25 per cent today. In addition, according to SAFAR data available on Wednesday, the number of stubble burning fires had doubled over the past 48 hours - from 1,200 to 2,700.