The air quality in the Indian capital plummeted to an ‘unhealthy’ level on Saturday as farmers on its outskirts burned straw stubble on their fields.
New Delhi's already poor air quality worsens every year as farmers in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana states burn post-harvest crop residue in their fields in October and November.
Air quality was recorded as ‘very poor’ at several locations monitored by the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
The levels of suspended particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres, which are extremely fine and can penetrate and damage lung tissue, were recorded at levels up to 12 times the limit deemed safe by the World Health Organization.
Fines were imposed on 12 farmers on Friday due to crop residue burning, a statement from the Haryana State Pollution Control Board said. The entire state was being monitored through satellite imagery to spot and control burning.
Haryana has banned the burning of crop reside but farmers continue the practice as it is the cheapest way of clearing their fields.
New Delhi, a city with a population of 20 million, has been ranked among the worst-polluted cities in the world in recent years.
Besides crop burning, vehicular and industry emissions, construction dust and burning of rubbish are all cited as reasons for high levels of pollution.
The government has taken up some initiatives but none of them have proved very successful in checking the worsening air quality.
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