Merkel urges Delhi to go green amid smog emergency

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel urged

greater efforts to clean up New Delhi's toxic air as she pledged one billion

euros to help Indian cities switch to green transport.

Merkel became a rare foreign leader to speak out on India's smog crisis

after being exposed to the capital's air on Friday, when authorities said the

pollution had reached emergency levels.

Schools were ordered closed until Tuesday and all construction halted,

while Delhi authorities started distributing millions of anti-pollution masks

to children.

The same day, Merkel went on a ceremonial parade in the city with Prime

Minister Narendra Modi on Friday as the smog intensified.

Neither leader wore masks despite authorities telling residents to stay

indoors to avoid the haze.

Merkel said that Germany would spend one billion euros on green urban

transport projects in India over the next five years, including 200 million

euros to replace diesel buses in Tamil Nadu state.

These diesel buses are to be replaced by electric buses and anyone who

saw the pollution in Delhi yesterday would find very good arguments for

replacing even more of these buses, Merkel said in the widely reported

speech.

Much of the new peak in the most dangerous PM 2.5 pollutants �

particulates smaller than 2.5 microns that get into the lungs and bloodstream

� has been blamed on fires lit by farmers to burn off wheat crop residues

outside of the capital.

Higher winds improved air quality on Saturday but pollution remained

severe, according to government monitors.

� Cricket match �

The city will be under a new spotlight on Sunday when India play

Bangladesh in a cricket international.

The two teams have insisted they will go ahead with the match despite the

pollution threat.

Some Bangladesh players and bowling coach Daniel Vettori trained in masks

at the Arun Jaitley stadium, where the Twenty20 match is to be played.

Authorities have ordered trees in and around the stadium to be sprayed

with water to collect dust.

They have also set up special patrols to stop construction work and

garbage burning.

Bangladesh captain Mahmudullah Riyad said the team had spoken about the

pollution dangers but there was little they could do.

When we came here there was smog, we all know, but the players have

practiced for last three days, trying to adapt to the conditions. he said.

It's not within our control, we have to focus on our cricket.

Delhi has faced a mounting pollution crisis over the past decade.

Fourteen Indian cities including the capital are among the world's top 15

most polluted cities, according to the United Nations. According to one

study, smog kills a million Indians prematurely every year.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)