A public health emergency was declared as choking smog blanketed New Delhi yesterday, with authorities ordering the temporary closure of all primary schools in the world's most polluted capital city.
The US embassy website said levels of the fine pollutants known as PM2.5 that are most harmful to health reached 703 -- well over double the threshold of 300 that authorities class as hazardous. Local authorities are warning of worsening conditions in the coming days.
The Indian Medical Association declared a public health emergency as it urged city administrators "to make every possible effort to curb this menace".
As public outrage mounted over the air pollution crisis, Delhi's deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia ordered the closure of all primary schools today.
"We have decided to shut schools up to primary level for a day, and will evaluate the situation on an hourly basis to see if such a closure needs to be extended," he told reporters.
Almost 2 million students are enrolled in primary schools in Delhi, according to government data from 2015.
All outdoor activities have also been banned across the capital's 6,000 schools while pollution levels remain at severe levels, Sisodia said.
The World Health Organization in 2014 classed New Delhi as the world's most polluted capital, with air quality levels worse than Beijing.
Since then authorities have closed power plants temporarily and experimented with taking some cars off the road.