Toxic haze densely covered India’s capital, New Delhi, on Friday, plummeting the air quality index (AQI) to the worst global level, and causing the shutdown of some schools. Officials attribute this drastic decline in air quality to a mixture of colder temperatures, stagnant winds, and the burning of crop remnants in nearby agricultural states.
The city’s 20 million inhabitants experienced eye irritation and scratchy throats as the AQI neared 480 in certain areas, turning the atmosphere a heavy grey. An AQI between 0-50 is deemed good, but a measure between 400-500 endangers everyone, impacting even those in good health.
Delhi-based doctor, Aheed Khan, highlighted the increasing number of patients with respiratory issues, particularly noting the impact on infants and children. The pollution has also affected outdoor activities, with noticeably fewer people frequenting popular jogging spots like Lodhi Garden and India Gate.
In response to the deteriorating air quality, residents have been purchasing air purifiers, leading to a reported shortage of new filters at service centers. Officials foresee no immediate enhancement in the atmospheric conditions. Ashwani Kumar, chairman of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, predicts the elevated pollution levels will persist for the next two to three weeks, exacerbated by ongoing stubble burning, reduced wind speeds, and dropping temperatures.
The annual practice of crop waste burning by farmers in northern states like Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh is a significant contributor to the pollution crisis. This year, the heightened pollution has overshadowed India’s hosting of the cricket World Cup, affecting not only New Delhi but also the financial hub, Mumbai.
Despite the grim conditions, junior schools outside the capital remained open, necessitating the re-introduction of masks for children, a practice previously reserved for the COVID-19 pandemic.