BRING OUT THE MASKS

Chandni choke, Rajiv choke, Patel choke: Smog-filled New Delhi just can’t breathe

Quartz india
Quartz india

New Delhi is choking again, and how.

Slow winds and low temperatures have trapped dirty air in India’s national capital, making matters worse in a city that is already laden with pollution, courtesy 10 million gas-guzzling vehicles, burning crops in neighbouring states, and a heavy reliance on coal and even dirtier fuels.

The most recent readings of PM 2.5—the tiny airborne particulate matter that impairs human health—are well beyond the hazardous threshold of 300 and above. In some parts of the city, air quality index (AQI) readings are at 999—the maximum the tracker can measure. In all likelihood, the actual levels are even higher.

A blanket of smog descended on the city on Nov. 07. At the reception hosted for Belgian King Philippe and Queen Mathilde at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the royals were stifled by a dense layer of polluted air. By the next day, the situation became more severe.

The reduced visibility has delayed flights from of the city and train services have been suspended. The Indian Medical Association has declared a public-health medical emergency and called to cancel the Delhi half-marathon scheduled for Nov. 19. Schools for younger kids were shut and outdoor activity at high schools have been temporarily halted.

Since at least 2011, Delhi has turned into a “gas chamber,” worse than the pollution capital of the world, Beijing. This winter is already turning out to be no different.

Smog envelops the skyline at noon in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. Air pollution in India's capital has hit hazardous levels prompting local officials to ask that school shut down and a half marathon scheduled later in November be called off.
Smog envelops the skyline at noon in New Delhi on Nov. 07. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
Belgium's King Philippe inspects a military guard of honor, surrounded by smog, at the Indian Presidential palace in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. Air pollution in India's capital has hit hazardous levels prompting local officials to ask that school shut down and a half marathon scheduled later in November be called off.
Belgium’s King Philippe inspects a military guard of honor, surrounded by smog, at the official home of the president of India in New Delhi on Nov. 07. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
Belgium's King Philippe inspects a military guard of honor at the Indian presidential palace, surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. The Belgian royal couple are on a seven day state visit to India.
Belgium’s King Philippe at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
epa06314948 An Indian man wearing a mask jogs as the Lodhi garden is engulfed in heavy smog during early morning in New Delhi, India, 08 November 2017. People in the Indian capital city are struggling with heavily polluted air as air quality hit 'severe levels,' according to reports.
An Indian man jogs at Lodhi garden wearing a mask. The sale of pollution masks increases every year post Diwali in Delhi as pollution levels surge. (EPA-EFE/Rajat Gupta)
People cross the road in Delhi, India, November 7, 2017.
People cross the road in smog-covered Delhi. (Reuters/Saumya Khandelwal)
epa06314949 Indian people go for a walk as the Lodhi garden is engulfed in heavy smog during early morning in New Delhi, India, 08 November 2017. People in the Indian capital city are struggling with heavily polluted air as air quality hit 'severe levels,' according to reports.
The tomb of Sikandar Lodi, a historical monument, is engulfed in heavy smog on Nov. 08. (EPA-EFE/Rajat Gupta)
epa06314946 Indian people perform yoga as the Lodhi garden is engulfed in heavy smog during early morning in New Delhi, India, 08 November 2017. People in the Indian capital city are struggling with heavily polluted air as air quality hit 'severe levels,' according to reports.
People perform yoga in heavy smog early in the morning on Nov. 08. (EPA-EFE/Rajat Gupta)
epa06314945 An Indian man performs pranayama as the Lodhi garden is engulfed in heavy smog during early morning in New Delhi, India, 08 November 2017. People in the Indian capital city are struggling with heavily polluted air as air quality hit 'severe levels,' according to reports.
A man performs breathing exercises engulfed in heavy smog. (EPA-EFE/Rajat Gupta)
An Indian man with his face covered with a cloth walks amid heavy smog in New Delhi, India, 08 November 2017. People in the Indian capital city are struggling with heavily polluted air as air quality hit 'severe levels,' according to reports.
A man wearing a makeshift pollution mask. (EPA-EFE/Rajat Gupta)
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