Delhi to compensate labourers as construction stopped over pollution

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Delhi will pay construction labourers 5,000 rupees ($60) in one-time compensation after the government suspended most construction and demolition work to tackle the Indian capital's air pollution, the chief minister said on Wednesday.

The city government also appealed to Delhi's 20 million people to share car journeys, work from home when possible and reduce the use of coal or firewood at home.

The world's most polluted capital is blanketed in smog every winter as cold, heavy air traps construction dust, vehicle emissions and smoke from the burning of crop residues in the neighbouring states of Haryana and Punjab ahead of the new crop season.

"Construction activities have been stopped across Delhi in view of pollution," Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Twitter, adding he had asked his labour minister to disburse the funds.

The government has not said when the restrictions on construction, which came into force on Monday, will end. Public works, such as on hospitals, roads and airports, are exempted.

Delhi's pollution was in the "very poor" category early on Wednesday, better than Tuesday's "severe" reading, according to data from the federal Ministry of Earth Science.

Very poor air can lead to respiratory illnesses on prolonged exposure, while severe air affects healthy people and seriously impacts those with other diseases, according to the government.

($1 = 82.7550 Indian rupees)

(Writing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Mark Potter)