Indian capital Delhi gasps under choking smog

India's capital New Delhi was enveloped

in heavy, toxic smog Sunday the worst levels in recent years with

flights diverted or delayed as politicians blamed each other for failing to

tackle the crisis.

Every winter, the megacity of 20 million people is blanketed by a poisonous

smog of car fumes, industrial emissions and smoke from stubble burning at

farms in neighbouring states.

Concentrations of particles measuring less than 2.5 microns hit the

highest level of this season, exacerbated by light rains late Saturday,

India's state-run System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research

(SAFAR) said.

The reading for pollutants in the atmosphere hit 810 micrograms per cubic

metre Sunday morning, in the hazardous zone according to the US embassy in

Delhi, which independently monitors pollution levels.

The recommended World Health Organisation safe daily maximum is 25.

Pollution has reached unbearable levels, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind

Kejriwal tweeted Sunday.

Locals complained of sore eyes and throats, with some residents wearing

masks to protect themselves.

Visibility was so poor major carriers Air India and Vistara said Sunday

flights were being delayed or diverted to and from Delhi's airports.

Some cricket players and coaches have also been training in masks ahead of

the Twenty20 international between Bangladesh and India later Sunday.

The shocking conditions sparked a blame game between state and federal

politicians over who was responsible for the conditions, which authorities

said Friday had reached emergency levels.

In a tweet last week, Kejriwal called on the state governments of

neighbouring Punjab and Haryana to take action.

Delhi has turned into a gas chamber due to smoke from crop burning in

neighbouring states, he tweeted.

Federal Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar accused Kejriwal of

politicising the issue and presenting the two states in a bad light and as

villains.

Schools in Delhi have already been ordered closed until Tuesday, and

construction halted From Monday there will be an odd/even car licence plate

scheme to cut traffic.

Last year, a UN report found 14 of the world's 15 most polluted cities were

in India, with one US study saying it kills a million people prematurely

every year.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)