Shutting factories in Delhi, nearby Indian cities could curb pollution

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By Neha Arora and Mayank Bhardwaj

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Temporarily shutting down industries in India's capital New Delhi and neighbouring cities could help reduce a toxic smog, a top official said on Tuesday, a day before the Supreme Court reconvenes on plans to combat air pollution.

New Delhi has also favoured extending a ban on construction and letting people continue to work from home to help reduce toxic air pollution, said Gopal Rai, Minister for Environment, Forest and Wildlife Development of the Government of Delhi.

Rai shared his recommendations during a meeting called by the Commission for Air Quality Management, a body under the federal Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

Officials from neighbouring states Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh also participated.

The Air Quality Index in New Delhi on Monday touched 403, indicating "severe" conditions that can cause respiratory illness on prolonged exposure.

The Supreme Court had asked the Commission for Air Quality Management to hold a meeting of the federal government and the state governments of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to work out immediate measures to cut pollution in northern India.

The Commission will present the outcome of its meeting before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

India's top court has rapped the government over its failure to mitigate pollution in the city of 20 million people who endure toxic air almost every winter when temperatures and wind speed drop and pollutants get trapped in thick smog.

The burning of rice paddy straw also contributes to pollution in winter.

India's efforts to reduce the burning of crop waste have had little benefit, despite billions of rupees spent over the past four years.

As air quality plummeted, the Supreme Court told authorities to shut offices in New Delhi and nearby cities and allow millions of people to work from home. New Delhi has already shut schools.

(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj and Neha Arora; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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