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POST TIME: 8 November, 2017 00:00 00 AM
Doctors warn of health emergency as smog blankets India’s capital
AFP

Doctors warn of health emergency as smog blankets India’s capital

Indian commuters cross railway lines in dense fog and air pollution in Jalandhar yesterday. AFP photo

NEW DELHI: A public health emergency was declared in New Delhi yesterday as a choking blanket of smog descended on the world’s most polluted capital city, reports AFP.

The Indian Medical Association’s declaration came as the US embassy website said levels of the fine pollutants known as PM2.5 that are most harmful to health reached 703 -- well over double the threshold of 300 that authorities class as hazardous.

“We have declared a state of public health emergency in Delhi since pollution is at an alarming level,” the head of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) Krishan Kumar Aggarwal told AFP.

“Delhi authorities have to make every possible effort to curb this menace.”

The World Health Organization in 2014 classed New Delhi as the world’s most polluted capital, with air quality levels worse than Beijing.

Since then authorities have closed power plants temporarily and experimented with taking some cars off the road.

But on Tuesday many residents said too little was being done to tackle the scourge.

“It’s a recurring problem and we need to find a quick and permanent solution to it before it is too late,” said real estate agent Vipin Malhotra.

“Delhi is becoming unliveable, particularly for children, as the pollution has reached uncontrollable levels.”

Low visibility caused by the smog forced the closure of one of the runways at Delhi airport, delaying some flights.

Delhi’s air quality typically worsens ahead of the onset of winter as cooler air traps pollutants near the ground, preventing them from dispersing into the atmosphere, a phenomenon known as inversion.

Firecrackers set off to celebrate the Diwali festival of lights in the city add to the toxic mix created by pollution from diesel engines, coal-fired power plants and industrial emissions.

The problem is further exacerbated by the burning of crop stubble by farmers after the harvest in northern India, a practice that remains commonplace despite an official ban.

Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he had asked the state’s education authorities to consider shutting schools, a step the IMA has urged.