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  1. ITV Report

'Like living in a gas chamber': Delhi suffers worst smog in 17 years

India Gate on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India Credit: Reuters
  • By Sanjay Jha, ITV News India Producer

Hours before Prime Minister Theresa May landed in Indian capital New Delhi, the Government declared Delhi air pollution an emergency.

New Delhi’s schools have been closed for three days and all kinds of construction work has been ordered to halt.

Harmful pollutants reached levels more than 16 times the safe limit after popular Hindu festival of Diwali.

The unprecedented Delhi pollution has caused breathlessness, asthma, and allergy rises in the city.

Delhi is facing its worst smog in the last 17 years, prompting the high court to observe that it was akin to "living in a gas chamber".

Doctors and experts say that besides spikes in fresh cases, health complications have aggravated in people having a history of asthma, allergy or other related ailments.

On Sunday, Delhi’s first minister Arvind Kejriwal announced emergency measures aimed at protecting residents, including a five-day ban on construction and demolition - thought to be a major contributor to pollution levels.

Kejriwal said: “People should stay home as much as they can [and] work from home.”

He also called on neighbouring states to enforce laws against burning agricultural waste.

Around this time each year, hundreds of thousands of farmers in Haryana and Punjab set their fields on fire to dispose of crop remnants, sending smoke billowing across India’s northern plains.

Mrs May visits India under a cloud of uncertainty, on her first trade mission, and her first bilateral visit outside the European Union.

But the Prime Minister will face tough questions over new visa restrictions for high-skilled workers likely to affect the Indian IT sector.

The bilateral relations could get a boost if both the countries agree to sort out their issues and make headway on bilateral trade arrangements.