NEW DELHI - New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, was blanketed in smog on Wednesday (Nov 8) as authorities scrambled to put in emergency measures, including shutting down schools and warning citizens against taking their morning walks.
“Due to the deteriorating air quality in Delhi, the health of children cannot be compromised. We have ordered the closure of all the schools in Delhi until Sunday,” tweeted Manish Sisodia, Delhi’s deputy chief minister today.
On Tuesday, Mr Sisodia had urged people to avoid morning walks.
"I would also request people to avoid morning walks. The situation is close to a severe crisis," Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said on Tuesday.
The government is expected today to discuss implementing the odd and even car plan, which means people will only be able to drive their cars on alternate days. Under the system, cars with number plates ending in an even number will be allowed to ply on even number dates, and similarly for cars with number plates ending in an odd number.
The Delhi government has also said children and the elderly should avoid going outdoors as much as possible as air quality reached severe levels for the second day in a row.
The US Embassy's Air Quality Index, which measures the concentration of fine particulate matter in the air, hit over 600 in several parts of the city this morning. Anything above 300 has been labelled hazardous and the US embassy website says people should avoid outdoor exertion.
Indian media also reported that the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution and Control Authority has urged the Delhi government to quadruple parking fees and reduce metro fares to encourage commuters to use public transport.
There were also reports of trains and flights being delayed in the capital city today.
The Indian Medical Association has called for Delhi's half-marathon, set for Nov 19, to be cancelled to protect the health of runners and volunteers.
India's capital, which has a population of 16 million people, has over the past decade seen pollution become a serious problem.
Pollution has increased due to rapid vehicle growth, a preference for diesel cars, increased construction activity in and around Delhi, and burning of crop stubble by farmers in the neighbouring states of Haryana and Punjab.
The current spike in pollution has been blamed on the burning of crop stubble combined with the onset of winter. Falling temperatures trap pollutants in the atmosphere, while slow winds disperse the smog so it settles over the city and its surrounding areas.
People took to social media today to express their frustration even as the Indian Medical Association declared a health emergency.
"As a father of a six-year-old daughter in Delhi, I demand my CM (chief minister) should face the media today, health minister should face questions & Environment minister should tell what's their plan," said former Aam Aadmi Party leader Kapil Mishra.
Others wondered why only primary schools were shut and not all schools even as many tweeted pictures of heavy smog.
One social media user posted: "Funny part is that now suddenly even chain smokers seem to be concerned about their health!"
Medical experts have said the pollution is so harmful in some parts of the city that it is similar to smoking 50 cigarettes a day.