India’s capital New Delhi was wrapped in a thick layer of toxic haze yesterday and some schools were ordered closed as the air quality index (AQI) plummeted to the “severe” category.
New Delhi again topped a real-time list of the world’s most polluted cities compiled by Swiss group IQAir, which put the Indian capital’s AQI at 640 in the “hazardous” category yesterday, followed by 335 in the Pakistani city of Lahore.
Regional officials said a seasonal combination of lower temperatures, a lack of wind and crop stubble burning in neighbouring farm states had caused a spike in air pollutants.
Many of New Delhi’s 20 million residents complained of irritation in the eyes and itchy throats with the air turning a dense grey as the AQI hovered around 480 in some monitoring stations. An AQI of 0-50 is considered good while anything between 400-500 affects healthy people and is a danger to those with existing diseases.
“In my last 24 hours duty, I saw babies coughing, children coming with distress and rapid breathing,” Aheed Khan, a Delhi-based doctor, said on social media platform X.
There were fewer people in the city’s parks such as Lodhi Garden and India Gate, popular with joggers. Residents snapped up air purifiers. One service centre for the appliances said there was a shortage of new filters and fresh stocks were expected on Monday.