Angry parents accused Delhi authorities on Monday of “playing with children’s health” as schools reopened despite a fresh surge in pollution to emergency levels.
Doctors declared a public health emergency last week when choking smog descended on the capital and elsewhere in northern India, prompting authorities to close schools, ban construction and bar trucks from entering the city.
On Monday, authorities reopened schools amid concerns over upcoming exams, angering some parents.
“There has been no let-up in the pollution levels. So if the situation is the same, action should be the same. Why to open the schools now?” said Ashok Agrawal, president of the All India Parents Association.
“On one hand the government is saying there is a health emergency and on the other, they are playing with children’s health.
“It is so disturbing to see children coughing and struggling to breathe all the way to the school.”
On Monday levels of PM2.5 topped 500. The smallest and most dangerous particulates penetrate deep into the lungs, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The World Health Organisation says 25 is the most anyone can safely be exposed to over a 24-hour period, and levels over 300 are considered hazardous.
Doctors say children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution and this can cause long-term damage to their lungs.