Regulators in India have closed six of 11 coal-fired power plants with a radius of 300km of New Delhi until the end of November, as air pollution deteriorated with toxic smog clouding the city for nearly two weeks.
Choked in toxic smog, schools and workplaces have been also shut in the capital city until further notice. The authorities were even mulling a lockdown, although it has nothing to do with COVID-19 this time.
Early this week, the Supreme Court ordered millions of office workers to stay home to keep vehicles off the roads and suggested a two-day lockdown to help cut the air pollution.
To cut the use of coal, all industries in the National Capital Region that have gas connected must switch from coal to gas as fuel, or factories will be shut down.
The air quality in the NCR region has worsened since the Diwali Festival in early November. Delhi's air pollution is especially serious in late fall and early winter when smoke flows over from stubble burning in the neighboring states.
The closure of six coal power plants could be a relief to the supply shortage that the capital city is experiencing, although the extent has been eased in recent weeks with more supplies from domestic mines.
As of November 16, coal stockpiles at power plants in India totaled 17.04 million tonnes, enough for eight days of use, a clear improvement from just four days a month ago. However, there were still 69 power plants with stocks down to critical/supercritical levels.
There's still a long way to go for India to balance its economic growth and environmental protection. Environmentalists criticized that the government needs to take more long-term measures to tackle air pollution other than doing it in a knee-jerk reactive way such as the closure of coal plants and the city lockdown.
(Writing by Alex Guo Editing by Harry Huo)
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