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article imagePollution so bad in New Delhi United Airlines halts flights

By Karen Graham     Nov 12, 2017 in Travel
New Delhi - The air in New Deli has remained "hazardous" for days. Illegal crop burning, vehicle emissions, industrial pollution and dust from sprawling construction sites have contributed to the public health emergency and there is no end in sight.
According to the BBC on Sunday, New Delhi's Air Quality Index (AQI) recordings have consistently hit the maximum of 999. Exposure to such toxic air is akin to smoking more than two packs of cigarettes a day, say doctors. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal says the city has turned into a "gas chamber."
The AQI measures microscopic PM2.5 particles, tiny bits of matter about 30 times finer than the human hair that can be inhaled into the lungs and bloodstream, causing cardiac arrest, strokes, lung cancer and a host of other respiratory diseases. On Friday, AQI readings at the U.S. Embassy were 550, while the safe limit is 40 micrograms per cubic meter.
The state-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and other hospitals have been clogged with coughing, wheezing and breathless men, women and children. The medical community has declared a public health emergency, although it is questionable it can be enforced, but they are asking people to stay indoors.
All outdoor activities have  been banned across New Delhi's 6 000 schools while pollution level...
All outdoor activities have been banned across New Delhi's 6,000 schools while pollution levels remain at severe levels
New Delhi's problem is India's problem
India's capital city, New Delhi, is surrounded by 13 coal-fired power plants, all of them within an 185-mile radius of the city. The government ordered one of the plants to shut down last week in the hope of easing the pollution. However, it is not just the coal plants causing New Delhi's problems.
Punjab and Haryana are large agricultural states that border New Delhi. Around October every year, millions of tons of agricultural waste are burned to make way for the winter wheat crop. The National Green Tribunal, a government environmental governing body, previously had directed the Delhi government and neighboring states to halt the burning of crop residue because of the air pollution.
Government records do show the federal government has committed nearly $20 million to the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to provide farm mechanization and handle crop residue, but Punjab has not utilized the fund and it is not known how much has been used to buy machinery.
And then, there is the ongoing pollution from older cars, trucks, and motorbikes, cooking fires, fires set in trash dumps, and industrial emissions that go unchecked. It seems that things will never get better in New Delhi unless the real causes of the pollution are resolved.
The World Health Organization in 2014 classed New Delhi as the world's most polluted capital
The World Health Organization in 2014 classed New Delhi as the world's most polluted capital
Schools closed and other remedies
At least 6,000 schools were closed last week, and all commercial travel, with the exception "essential" travel, was banned. On Friday, officials talked about re-introducing an odd/even travel restriction that would allow a vehicle with plates ending in an odd number to operate on one day and even-numbered vehicles the next day. It was supposed to start Monday.
The odd/even travel scheme hit a roadblock over the weekend when federal environmental officials declined to grant exemptions for women and two-wheeled vehicles. While local officials say the exemptions are crucial for women's safety, there has been no agreement on the Monday start of the driving scheme.
Nearly 35 million tonnes of post-harvest stubble is burnt annually in Haryana and Punjab  two predom...
Nearly 35 million tonnes of post-harvest stubble is burnt annually in Haryana and Punjab, two predominantly rural states near Delhi, despite a nationwide ban on the practice since 2015
Additionally, United Airlines canceled flights in New Delhi. United Airlines spokesman Jonathan Guerin said the airline, one of the world's largest, is monitoring advisories as the region combats a "public health emergency."
"United temporarily suspended our Newark-Delhi flights due to poor air quality concerns in Delhi and currently has waiver policies in place for customers who are traveling to, from or through Delhi," Guerin said in a statement.
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