World

Hazardous smog chokes New Delhi

NEW DELHI Residents of New Delhi woke up to a choking blanket of smog yesterday as air quality in the world's most polluted capital city reached hazardous levels.

The US embassy website said levels of the fine pollutants known as PM2.5 that are most harmful to health reached 703 - well more than double the threshold of 300 that the authorities class as hazardous.

"The moment I stepped out of my home I started coughing and there was a burning sensation in my eyes," said Mr Naresh Yadav, a bank employee, as he walked to work in central Delhi.

"The government can't solve this problem alone; people need to pitch in and help the government to protect the environment."

Delhi's air quality typically worsens ahead of the onset of winter as cooler air traps pollutants near the ground, preventing them from dispersing into the atmosphere, a phenomenon known as inversion.

Firecrackers set off to celebrate Deepavali in the city added to the toxic mix created by pollution from diesel engines, coal-fired power plants and industrial emissions.

The problem is further exacerbated by the burning of crop stubble by farmers after the harvest in north India, a practice that remains commonplace despite an official ban.

India's Central Pollution Control Board said high levels of moisture in the air and lack of wind meant emissions had become trapped in the environment.- AFP

POLLUTIONEnvironmenthealth