NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Authorities handed out free face masks to New Delhi residents on Thursday as filthy air polluted by rural crop fires and urban traffic and factories reached dangerous new levels in the Indian capital.
Government data showed the air quality index over the last two days crossed 400, indicating severe conditions that put people with healthy lungs as well as those with respiratory illnesses at risk.
With the skies over Delhi clouded with smog, many also cast worried eyes on the fate of India-Bangladesh Twenty20 cricket match scheduled for Sunday.
“I do not think any match should happen here in Delhi until the pollution level comes under control,” said Gautam Gambhir, a former Indian test cricketer and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s lawmaker in Delhi.
Pollution has worsened over the last week due to the burning of crop residue in neighboring states that have sent over clouds of hazardous smoke, cloaking the city in a dusty, toxic transluscence.
Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal will restrict the use of private vehicles on the city’s roads from next week and authorities have shut down construction activity and coal-based power plants.
Deadly air pollution can cut life expectancy by up to seven years in northern India, according to a study by Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.