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India's capital city, New Delhi, has once again been enveloped in a toxic haze, making it the world's most polluted city.
Science & Health

India’s capital city, New Delhi, has once again been enveloped in a toxic haze, making it the world’s most polluted city.

On Friday, a dense blanket of poisonous haze engulfed New Delhi, the capital of India. As a result, certain schools were instructed to shut down due to the air quality index dropping to the alarming “severe” level.

The city of New Delhi has once again been ranked at the top of a live ranking of the most polluted cities in the world by Swiss organization IQAir. The air quality index (AQI) for the Indian capital was measured at 640, falling under the “hazardous” category. Lahore, a city in Pakistan, followed with an AQI of 335.

Local authorities reported that a temporary convergence of colder weather, minimal air movement, and the burning of leftover plant remains in nearby agricultural areas led to a surge in harmful substances in the air.

A significant portion of New Delhi’s population, which amounts to 20 million people, reported experiencing eye irritation and throat discomfort due to the dense gray air.

An Air Quality Index (AQI) ranging from 0 to 50 is classified as good, while a range of 400 to 500 can have negative effects on the health of individuals and poses a danger to those with preexisting conditions.

According to Aheed Khan, a doctor in Delhi, during my recent 24-hour shift, I observed infants coughing and children exhibiting signs of distress with fast breathing on the social media platform X.

There was a decrease in the number of individuals visiting the city’s parks, including Lodhi Garden and India Gate, which are popular among joggers.

Residents snapped up air purifiers. One service center for the appliances said there was a shortage of new filters and fresh stocks were expected Monday.

Authorities stated that they did not anticipate an immediate enhancement in the air quality.

The pollution level is expected to remain high for the next two to three weeks due to factors such as stubble burning, low wind speed, and dropping temperatures, according to Ashwani Kumar, head of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee.

In October, farmers in the northern states of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh typically set fire to crop residue after harvesting. This is done to prepare their fields for planting winter crops a few weeks later.

This year, attention on the worsening air quality has cast a shadow over the cricket World Cup hosted by India, with financial capital Mumbai also suffering from a spike in pollution levels.

On Monday, Delhi will be the venue for a World Cup game between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

On Friday, IQAir reported that the amount of harmful PM2.5 particles in New Delhi was 53.4 times higher than the World Health Organization’s recommended annual air quality level. These tiny particles, measuring less than 2.5 microns in diameter, have been linked to severe health issues.

Junior schools in the city were closed on Friday and Saturday, but remained open in the surrounding areas. Children who were taking the school bus were required to wear masks, which had not been used since the COVID-19 pandemic ended.

The low quality of air also led to respiratory issues, eye irritation, and agitation in pets.

According to veterinarian Prabhat Gangwar from animal welfare organization Friendicoes, difficulty breathing can lead to pneumonia or other health issues in young animals. It is recommended to refrain from taking pets on morning walks for a few days until the air quality improves.