Toxic smog choking Indias capital has shut down schools and prevented planes from landing at an international airport but doctors say whats most concerning is how the foul air has sickened many of New Delhis citizens.
New Delhi officials declared a health emergency Friday, asking the citys more than 20 million residents to stay indoors. Schools were closed for five days and authorities handed out millions of free masks to children as the deteriorating air quality reached a three-year high.
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The city is not livable anymore, street vendor Devendra Verma said. Sometimes I think I should pack my bags and leave Delhi for once and all.
The air quality index (AQI) for New Delhi reportedly measured over 900 in some areas over the weekend, with Delhis Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal saying that the city had been turned into a gas chamber. An AQI of 0-50 is considered good, according to Indias government-run air quality service.
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While Indias health minister Harsh Vardhan downplayed the health risks of the filthy air, insisting it was only of concern to those with pre-existing lung conditions, doctors in the capital have said the city is in the middle of a health emergency.
I have patients from all age groups and most of them are nonsmokers who complain of breathlessness, chest congestion, fatigue and weakness, Dr. Salil Sharma, a throat specialist, said of the patients hes seen recently. In some cases, I had to put some patients on a ventilator because they couldnt breathe.
Sakshi Chauhan, a 22-year-old recovering from a severe throat infection, said she hasnt left her house for six days because the moment I step outside, I cant breathe properly.
Air pollution in New Delhi and many of Indias northern states peaks this time of year as farmers in agricultural regions burn crop stubble to clear their fields. Smoke from fireworks set off during Diwali celebrations, the Indian festival of light, also contributes to the bad air and poor visibility.
The smog hasalso reduced visibility so that more than 30 planes were diverted from Delhi airport, the Guardian reported.
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Officials instituted an odd-even plan limiting cars to only drive on certain days based on the numbers on their license plates in an effort to reduce air pollution. Officials said the scheme would take 1.2 million vehicles off the road every day.
The city is not livable anymore. Sometimes I think I should pack my bags and leave Delhi for once and all.— Devendra Verma, New Delhi street vendor
India has the worlds 10 most polluted cities, according to data the World Health Organization released last year. However, on an average day, New Delhi doesnt even crack the top 10 Indian cities, ranking 14 on the list behind cities in the states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, India Today reported.
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The nations Supreme Court has sought accountability from state governments over the poor air quality.
This cant go on, the court said Monday. People arent safe even inside their houses and rooms.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.B:
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