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In photos: Under a thick blanket of smog, New Delhi declares health emergency

Click to play video: 'India pollution: Air quality reaches ‘hazardous’ levels in Delhi' India pollution: Air quality reaches ‘hazardous’ levels in Delhi
WATCH: The air quality in India's capital, New Delhi, is so poor that the government has declared a state health emergency. Authorities have begun distributing masks to school children on Friday. Schools will be closed until Nov. 5 – Nov 6, 2019

Life in the Indian capital of New Delhi has been disrupted by serious levels of air pollution.

Air quality is currently so poor that on Friday, a public health emergency was declared and schools were ordered to close until Nov. 5.

People walk on the Rajpath on a smoggy day in New Delhi, India, November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis.

Similar to how New Delhi and other cities such as Paris have responded to smog in the past, officials have placed temporary restrictions on the number of cars permitted on the roads starting on Monday.

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Privately-owned vehicles are prohibited from operating every other day, depending on whether the vehicle’s licence plate is odd or even.

READ MORE: New Delhi restricts cars for 2 weeks amid battle with toxic smog and dust

Construction activity in the Delhi area has also been restricted.

Birds fly as people commute near India’s Presidential Palace on a smoggy day in New Delhi, India, November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis.

Photos from the capital show a thick off-white haze that has significantly reduced visibility.

According to India’s Central Pollution Control Board, the air quality index was at an average of 484 Friday, a “severe” rating.

People wear masks on a smoggy evening in New Delhi, India, October 31, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis.

The World Health Organization says 4.2 million deaths each year are linked to air pollution.

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Exposure to small particulate matter in the air causes cardiovascular and respiratory disease and cancers, the agency says.

A security guard stands amidst smog during a practice session of Bangladesh ahead of their Twenty20 cricket match against India in New Delhi, India, October 31, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi.

New Delhi is no stranger to air pollution.

Because of an agricultural practice called “stubble burning,” air quality is typically lower this time of year.

“Delhi has turned into a gas chamber due to smoke from crop burning in neighbouring states,” said chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in a tweet Thursday.

“It is very important that we protect ourselves from this toxic air.”

READ MORE: Toxic smog reaches ‘severe, emergency levels’ in India’s New Delhi

He said face masks were being distributed through schools.

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The uptick in pollution is also linked to the celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights, when it’s traditional to set off firecrackers.

India’s Central Pollution Control Board discouraged the practice on Twitter in the lead up to Diwali, using the hashtag “#SayNoToCrackers.”

“If you can’t resist firing crackers then only buy GREEN CRACKERS to reduce the #AirPollution,” the agency said on Twitter on Oct. 20.

Bangladesh’s Arafat Sunny bowls amidst smog during a practice session ahead of their Twenty20 cricket match against India in New Delhi, India, October 31, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi.

Sunil Dahiya, an energy and air pollution analyst at Greenpeace, accused the government of not taking substantive steps to address stubble burning or big industrial polluting sources ahead of the crisis.

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“A public health emergency situation began at least 10 days ago,” Dahiya told Reuters.

— With files from the Associated Press and Reuters

A man paddles a boat in the waters of the Yamuna river near the Signatue bridge on a smoggy evening in New Delhi, India, November 1, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis.

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