Air quality sinks to ‘severe’ in haze-shrouded New Delhi

NEW DELHI (AP) — A thick haze of polluted air hung over India’s capital yesterday, with authorities trying to tackle the problem by sprinkling water to settle dust and banning some construction.

The air quality index exceeded 400, about eight times the recommended maximum, according to the state-run Central Pollution Control Board.

Favourable winds had briefly halved that measure of pollutants, but winds blowing from the northwest carried emissions from burning crops in Punjab and Haryana states to New Delhi, leading to high levels of pollution, according to the government’s air quality monitoring system SAFAR. Air pollution in northern India peaks in the winter due to smoke from agricultural fires.

Farmers say they are unfairly criticised and have no choice but to burn stubble to prepare their fields for the next crop.

Stringent pollution controls have been imposed, such as sprinkling water from high-rises and banning some construction to settle or avoid dust, but the worsening air quality in Delhi has remained persistent. The pollution crisis affecting 20 million residents is also piling public pressure on the government to tackle the root causes of the persistent haze.