The smog-filled air of India‘s capital New Delhi was declared “unfit for human habitation” on Friday by a leading doctor in the city.
Doctor Arvind Kumar, chairman of the Centre for Chest Surgery at Delhi’s Ganga Ram Hospital, said the city’s air could shorten the life of the 22 million people living in the city.
“It’s causing an immense amount of damage to lung health, to our hearts, to our brains, and to every part of the body”, he said.
Officials on Friday said there are plans to spray water over New Delhi to combat toxic smog that has triggered a pollution emergency.
The government was finalizing the plans to spray the water from a height of 100 metres, which would be unprecedented, officials said, without detailing how much of the city of 22 million people would be covered.
Illegal crop burning in farm states surrounding New Delhi, vehicle exhaust in a city with limited public transport and swirling construction dust have caused the crisis, as they do year after year.
The thick blanket of grey air and pollutants has enveloped Delhi for the past four days.
A U.S. embassy measure of tiny particulate matter, called PM 2.5, showed a reading of 523 at 9 a.m. on Friday — the outer limit of “good” air is 50.
PM 2.5 is about 30 times finer than a human hair. The particles can be inhaled deep into the lungs, causing heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and respiratory diseases.
The air has remained consistently in the “hazardous” category or beyond those levels, despite a litany of government measures: ordering a halt to all construction activities, restricting vehicular movement and raising parking charges four times to push residents to use public transport.
At least 2.5-million people in India died early because of pollution in 2015, more than any other country in the world, according to a study by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health.
Conditions expected to worsen over the weekend.