New Delhi awoke to a distressing sight on Friday as a thick, noxious haze blanketed the city. In response to the plummeting air quality index (AQI), which entered the “severe” category in multiple areas of the Indian capital, authorities swiftly took action, ordering the closure of some schools for two days.
As the winter season descends upon Delhi, a dense and filthy smog emerges, a dire consequence of frigid, stagnant air that entraps construction debris, vehicle emissions, and the acrid smoke emanating from crop stubble burning in neighboring states. This annual environmental ordeal leads to a surge in respiratory ailments afflicting Delhi’s population of 20 million.
On Friday, residents lamented eye irritation, scratchy throats, and a discernible shift in air color to a foreboding gray, with the AQI hovering around 480 at various monitoring stations in the city.
In the AQI scale, a reading between 0 and 50 is deemed “good,” while any measurement from 400 to 500 adversely affects even healthy individuals and poses a substantial threat to those with pre-existing health conditions.
New Delhi claimed the undesirable top spot on a real-time list of the world’s most polluted cities, compiled by the Swiss organization IQAir. The city’s AQI surged to a staggering 611, marking it as “hazardous.”
The sudden escalation of the AQI was attributed to unfavorable meteorological conditions, an abrupt surge in farm fire incidents, and north-westerly winds transporting pollutants into Delhi, as stated by the Commission for Air Quality Management in the region.
In response to this dire situation, authorities directed the closure of primary (elementary) schools on Friday and Saturday. Additionally, most construction activities in the region were suspended to curb further pollution.
The escalating concern over deteriorating air quality has cast a shadow over the cricket World Cup hosted by India this year. Even India’s financial hub, Mumbai, has experienced a surge in pollution levels.
Delhi is scheduled to host a World Cup match next Monday between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Last year, Bhiwadi in northern India claimed the dubious honor of being the country’s most polluted city and ranked third globally, according to IQAir. New Delhi secured the fourth position, while Lahore in Pakistan and Hotan in China led the list of the world’s most polluted cities.
Editorial Note: This alarming situation demands swift and resolute measures to address the air quality crisis, which profoundly impacts the health and well-being of Delhi’s residents. We will continue to monitor this issue and provide updates on further developments.