The National Green Tribunal on Monday urged the Delhi government to close schools when the air quality touches emergency levels, PTI reported.

“Why don’t you close schools whenever the particulate matter levels are found to be beyond 900 microgram per cubic meter,” a bench headed by the tribunal’s Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar asked the Aam Aadmi Party government. “Ask the schools to run on Saturday and Sunday if required.”

The lawyer who represented the Delhi government countered that it was difficult to implement this order as air quality in the winter months is bad for at least three months, and shutting schools for so long would affect students’ academics.

But the National Green Tribunal rebuked the government: “You don’t do your duty and now you are giving reasons...You are spoiling the lives of children. Infants are taking antibiotics in Delhi. Why should they suffer?”

The bench said that the Delhi government has not taken any steps to bring the air quality down to permissible limits in the last 12 years. “If the lungs of children are affected today, imagine the disease they will have after 20 years,” it said and directed the government to consider its suggestion. The tribunal also criticised the government for not installing air purifiers in schools.

During the proceedings, the Delhi government submitted an action plan for periods when air quality touches emergency levels. The tribunal said that it would pass a detailed order on ways to handle air pollution after going through the reports submitted by Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh governments.