Air quality in the Indian capital dropped to what doctors described as “calamitous levels” on Wednesday, prompting authorities to shut all schools until Nov. 12.
The air quality in Delhi reached a score of 487 on a scale of 500 – almost 90 times over the limit prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) said.
Toxic smoke emanating from industrial plants, coupled with the annual burning of rice crop straw by farmers in neighboring Punjab and Haryana states, are blamed for the smog.
Visibility has been near zero across the national capital region since early Tuesday, according to officials.
“Delhi resembles a gas chamber,” Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Twitter.
Madhavan Rajeevan, an official with the Ministry of Earth Sciences said the smog would persist for another three days, while the Indian Medical Association declared a “public health emergency” and urged the government to stop all outdoor activities until the air quality improved, in order to protect children.
“The current level of pollution in Delhi is calamitous – bad enough to make even healthy people very sick,” Dr. Gautam Bharadwaj, a private medical practitioner, told BenarNews.
“There has been a significant rise in the number of people coming to my clinic with breathing difficulties over the last two days,” he said.