India's capital city New Delhi will undergo a full lockdown this weekend, and it has nothing to do with COVID-19.

The culprit this time is thick brown smog which had settled over the city, leading the authorities to shut down schools, impose work from home orders, and a full lockdown of the city and several surrounding regions.

Severe pollution - 20 times higher than the levels deemed healthy by the World Health Organization, had become an annual occurrence in the city, dubbed the most polluted capital in the world.

Among the causing factors of this suffocating smog are car exhaust fumes, stubble-burning by farmers in nearby states, industrial pollution, waste burning, and construction work.

The city was given a brief reprieve in last November, when the country underwent a lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lack of industrial activity and cars on the road meant cleaner air, but now, the pollution levels are back as before - even hitting the charts at 1,000 AQI, the highest there is.

Residents have complained of nausea, breathing difficulties, stinging eyes, and lethargy when they step out in the open, and there have also been a sharp increase in admissions related to respiratory and cardiac problems. A local survey conducted even showed that 86 per cent of families living in Delhi have someone in their household experiencing either sore throat, congestion, breathing difficulties, and even headaches, due to the toxic air.

A study has even shown that one-thirds of deaths in India (over 2.5 million people) were the result of air pollution.

Besided Delhi, the neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have also imposed work from home orders this week as the air quality plummeted.

This could be devastating for India as the country just reopened its borders for tourists after 20 long months.

Given the circumstances, it is best to postpone your planned trip to India until the dust settles.

Source: The Guardian
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