Don't panic, Delhi air quality improving: Environment Minister

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Thick smog swathed Delhi, where pollution readings in some places peaked at 500, the most severe level on the government's air quality index measuring the number of poisonous particles.

Smog conditions have intensified in the past 24 hours and air pollution rose to more than seven times the safe limit on Wednesday evening, as per the analysis of air quality index (AQI). "We can not compromise with the health of children at this stage", said Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, ordering the closure until Sunday. After recording temporary improvement from last night till this morning the air quality further deteriorated during the day.

The government was finalizing the plans to spray the water from a height of 100 meters, which would be unprecedented, she said, without saying how much of the city of 22 million people would be covered.

The National Green Tribunal had rapped the Punjab, Haryana and Delhi governments over measures taken to control the alarming issue of pollution.

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Directing all schools and all classes in the city to remain completely closed from tomorrow till Sunday, Delhi's Deputy CM Manish Sisodia said the situation will be reviewed on Sunday.

Illegal crop burning in farm states surrounding New Delhi, vehicle exhausts and swirling construction dust have contributed to what has become an annual crisis. Harsh Vardhan said on Twitter.

"Nobody seems to get the gravity of the problem", said Dr. Naresh Trehan, the chairman and managing director of the Medanta Heart Institute.

"The situation in Delhi is so bad and if the pollution can be brought down in any way, we will do it", he told AFP.

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Residents are anxious this year as well. There are reasons behind this slight improvement - the biggest being no movement of trucks within Delhi.

If pollution increases, emergency measures, such as the suspension of construction activity, will kick in, the Delhi government has said.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director of the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi, said sprinkling water will help, but it won't solve everything.

This story was reported by Reuters.

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