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Delhi restricts car use as toxic smog covers city

November 4, 2019

Vehicle restrictions have been introduced in and around the Indian capital, New Delhi, as part of an effort to cut soaring levels of air pollution. Private cars will be allowed on the roads on alternate days.

Authorities in New Delhi are restricting the use of private vehicles on the roads under an "odd-even" scheme
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Swarup

India's capital and its surrounding region began two weeks of restrictions on Monday, aimed at lowering severe levels of toxic air pollution.

A car rationing system allows private vehicles to use city roads on alternate days, depending on whether registration plates end with odd or even numbers.

Read more: Cities across world pledge air pollution changes, but are they ready?

According to authorities some 1.2 million registered vehicles in Delhi will be off-road every day during the two-week limitation.

Officials have already declared a public health emergency and ordered schools to stay closed.

Delhi is among the most polluted cities in the world, particularly in winter with chronic levels of hazardous air from October through February.

Delhi's state-run Central Pollution Control Board's air quality index for New Delhi was "severe" at 436 — some nine times the recommended maximum.

Flights to and from Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport were delayed or rerouted on Sunday as heavy air pollution enveloped the city.

In the nearby city of Agra, authorities deployed a van with air purification equipment close to the Taj Mahal, in a bid to improve air quality at the tourist site.  

Read more: India's youth want cleaner air, better infrastructure

Major carriers such as Air India and Vistara were forced to divert flights to airports as far away as Mumbai and Amritsar on Sunday.

Air pollution sensors in some parts of Delhi were reported to have maxed out at their upper limit of 999 micrograms, with people advised to stay indoors and wear masks.

Delhi's chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said the situation had become "unbearable." 

rc/rt (dpa, AP)

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