Air pollution in the Indian capital has hit dangerous levels causing grave health concerns, with doctors declaring the situation a public health crisis.
Reports say that the Air Quality Index (AQI) in many parts of the city soared into the category of ‘severe’ at 448 micrograms per cubic metre on a scale of 1 to 500, and is predicted to get worse over the next 48 hours.
At this severe level, even healthy people are affected, while those who have existing diseases will be severely impacted.
The permissible limit is 100 micrograms per cubic metre, but Delhi is usually between 300 and 400, a very unhealthy situation.
The Delhi Government has taken several emergency measures to try to lower the air pollution. All schools in Delhi are to be closed on Friday and Saturday. Entry of trucks into the capital is banned, and construction activities suspended.
In addition, an odd-even scheme is planned to begin on 13 November, even though there is doubt that this system actually has an effect on pollution. Vehicles with odd-numbered license plates run on odd-number dates, while even-numbered cars will only run on even dates.
High officials, emergency vehicles, and other categories are exempt from this scheme.
The Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) will hire 500 extra buses to carry commuters and lessen the use of cars.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal cites the burning of paddy stubble in adjoining states as the main cause behind this air pollution. Vehicle emissions and dust from construction sites are also factors blamed for this spike, along with firecrackers.
Delhi is among the most polluted cities in the world.
Delhi is not the only part of India affected, however. Air quality has deteriorated all across the northern-Gangetic plain, most notably in Lucknow, Agra, Kanpur, and Muzzafarpur.
South India is not as heavily affected, but AQI numbers are still above safe for most areas.
Due to lack of sensors, there is not much data for areas outside major cities. But satellite maps show heavy pollution haze extending even to the Himalaya foothills.
This extreme pollution situation has been going on for many years. A 2013 study on non-smokers found that Indians have 30% lower lung function compared to Europeans.