NEW DELHI – Air pollution in Delhi shot up on Tuesday to seven times higher than the level considered harmful by the World Health Organization, creating thick smog which caused problems in transport and led authorities to request the closure of schools.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board, the Indian capital woke up to heavy smog which reduced visibility to around 200 meters and the level of PM10 (particulate matter smaller than 10 micrometers) rose above 500 micrograms per cubic meter in different parts of the city.
At 9:00 am, the PM10 concentration in the Punjabi Bagh area was 1,329 per cubic meter, while the PM2.5 (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers) level rose to 894, according to the CPCB.
The Mandir Marg area recorded the PM10 and PM2.5 levels at 820 and 680 respectively at the time.
According to the WHO, the concentration of more than 100 micrograms per cubic meters of PM10 could affect the population, and levels above 200 and 300 have been declared harmful and toxic.
“Considering high level of pollution, I have requested Manish Sisodia, Education Minister, to consider closing schools for a few days,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Twitter.
Kejriwal said that joint steps were needed to resolve the problem which occurs every year, converting the city into a “gas chamber” for almost a month.
In November each year, burning of crop stubble in North India along with a drop in temperatures causes the air pollution levels to shoot up.
The Indian Medical Association said on Tuesday that Delhi was witnessing a public health emergency due to pollution, urging the closure of schools and advising people to avoid open spaces, Indian news agency ANI reported.
With around 17 million inhabitants, New Delhi is one of the most populated cities in the world and capital of the most polluted country worldwide, where 13 of the 20 most polluted cities are located.