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Reuters/Saumya Khandelwal
Pollyutens’ Delhi.
BRING OUT THE MASKS

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

By Ananya Bhattacharya

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.

AP Photo/Altaf Qadri
Smog envelops the skyline at noon in New Delhi on Nov. 07.
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AP Photo/Manish Swarup
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.
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AP Photo/Manish Swarup
Belgium’s King Philippe at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.
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EPA-EFE/Rajat Gupta
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.
People cross the road in Delhi
Reuters/Saumya Khandelwal
People cross the road in smog-covered Delhi.
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EPA-EFE/Rajat Gupta
The tomb of Sikandar Lodi, a historical monument, is engulfed in heavy smog on Nov. 08.
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EPA-EFE/Rajat Gupta
People perform yoga in heavy smog early in the morning on Nov. 08.
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EPA-EFE/Rajat Gupta
A man performs breathing exercises engulfed in heavy smog.
EPA-EFE/Rajat Gupta
A man wearing a makeshift pollution mask.