India and New Delhi disappear under smog: schools are closed and traffic has stopped

In New Delhi you can’t breathe. The Indian capital, with a population of more than 28 million people, has been covered for days by a thick blanket of smog, which, in addition to reduced visibility on the streets, causes respiratory problems, itching and eye irritation for many people. That is why the local government ordered the closure of all primary schools, banned the circulation of all polluting vehicles and halted non-essential construction work. Delhi has been at the top of the rankings of the world’s most polluted major cities for years, but in recent days the situation has reached more alarming levels than usual. Today, Friday, November 3, the Air Quality Index (IQA) reached a value of 500, which is the highest level expected from the World Health Organization tables and above all 10 times higher than the limit considered safe for the health of citizens.

The rapid worsening of air pollution in the city appears to be due to the activity of farmers in the neighboring states of Haryana and Punjab, who are burning crop residue. Last Sunday, more than a thousand fires were recorded on farms, an increase of 740%. The direction of the winds and low temperatures created a deadly recipe, pulling polluted particles towards New Delhi and trapping them in the air. According to a recent study by the University of Chicago, the level of air pollution in the Indian capital is so high that it could reduce the life expectancy of its residents by an average of 11.9 years. In recent years, the local government has responded to the situation by building two “smog towers,” costing more than $2 million each, that were supposed to clean the air but are considered ineffective by most scientists.

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Image credits: EPA/Harish Tyagi

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