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

The smoke from fields mixes with vehicle emissions and construction dust, making New Delhi the world’s most-polluted capital. (AP)
Updated 12 November 2019

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

  • The air quality index reached about eight times the recommended maximum
  • The smoke from fields mixes with vehicle emissions and construction dust, making New Delhi the world’s most-polluted capital

NEW DELHI: A thick gray haze blanketed India’s capital on Tuesday, with authorities attempting to reduce the pollution by sprinkling water to settle dust and banning some construction.
The air quality index exceeded 400, considered “severe” and about eight times the recommended maximum, according to the state-run Central Pollution Control Board.
Buildings and monuments in New Delhi were largely obscured by the haze and residents complained of health effects.
“We can’t breathe properly. My eyes are burning,” said Urmila Devi, who lives in Ghaziabad, one of the capital’s most polluted areas.
Favorable winds had briefly halved the level of pollutants, but winds blowing from the northwest carried air-borne particles from burning crops in Punjab and Haryana states to New Delhi, leading again 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 criticized and have no choice but to burn stubble to prepare their fields for the next crop.
The smoke from fields mixes with vehicle emissions and construction dust, making New Delhi the world’s most-polluted capital.
Rising pollution levels have also irked foreign visitors, with some saying they plan to cut short their trips because of health concerns.
“We are in the capital of India. The government should put more effort into tackling this problem,” said Rijil Odamvalappil of Abu Dhabi, who was visiting New Delhi with his wife.
Some residents say the pollution is so bad that it should be the most important issue for the government.
Pollution controls have been imposed, such as sprinkling water from high-rises and banning some construction to settle or avoid dust, but the capital’s poor air quality has continued amid calls for the government to do more to address the root causes.
Restrictions on private vehicles meant to reduce emissions were relaxed on Monday and Tuesday for the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion.
Doctors in the city of 20 million people say many of their patients are complaining of ailments related to the filthy air they breathe.
New Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, has made fervent appeals on Twitter and in newspaper advertisements for residents to help tackle the pollution problem.
India’s top court last week asked the city government, its neighboring states and the federal government to work together to improve air quality.
World Health Organization data released last year showed India had 10 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities.


6 dead after man opens fire in Czech hospital waiting room

Updated 27 min 53 sec ago

6 dead after man opens fire in Czech hospital waiting room

  • The attacker opened fire at people’s heads from close range
  • Police published a photo of the suspect, having withdrawn an earlier photo of a different man

PRAGUE: Six people were killed in a shooting in a hospital in the eastern Czech Republic Tuesday, the prime minister said. Police said the suspect is at large and described him as armed and dangerous.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis told Czech public television the shooting took place around 7 a.m. in a waiting room. The attacker opened fire at people’s heads from close range, Babis said.

He said he was heading for the site, at the University hospital in the eastern city of Ostrava, 350 kilometers (220 miles) east of Prague.

Police said the man left in a silver-grey Renault Laguna car and called on the public not to try to stop him.

Police published a photo of the suspect, having withdrawn an earlier photo of a different man. They said that man was now considered to be a witness.

Video footage and pictures published by public radio showed police arresting a person at the site but that person did not appear to be the shooting suspect.

Officials say people have been evacuated from the clinic. Police are boosting security across the country.