Delhi and its neighbouring cities continued to be engulfed in a blanket of smog three days after Diwali.

The Capital’s air quality index on Sunday evening was 432 (severe category), according to the government-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research, or Safar.

The air quality index in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, was also in the severe category on Sunday, according to the National Air Quality Index.

Photos from Agra showed that the Taj Mahal was shrouded in smog.

In Delhi, air pollution typically worsens in October and November due to farmers burning stubble in neighbouring states, unfavourable wind speed and emission of fumes by vehicles in the city. Firecrackers burst during Diwali add to this problem.

On Saturday, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai said that the Centre should hold an emergency meeting with the Capital’s neighbouring states to form a plan to deal with stubble burning, PTI reported.

Rai said that Delhi will suffocate again if stubble burning is not reduced, the Hindustan Times reported.

The minister added that the bursting of crackers had also contributed to the pollution in Delhi, but its effect is reducing now. “The effect of stubble burning, however, continues to worsen air quality in Delhi,” the minister added.

The Delhi government has deployed 114 tankers to sprinkle water on roads to control dust pollution, The New Indian Express reported.

Health hazards

Air pollution may cause more severe cases of the coronavirus, All India Institute of Medical Sciences chief Randeep Guleria told ANI on Saturday. He added that both Covid-19 and air pollution affect the lungs.

“Research from the SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] outbreak in 2003 in countries like the US and Italy has shown that the areas with higher levels of pollution impact those previously affected by Covid-19, causing inflammation and lung damage,” Guleria said. “The combination of pollution and Covid could lead to higher fatality rates.”

Dr Arvind Kumar, the chairperson of ICS-Medanta, said pollution has killed more people than the coronavirus.

“As per our study at Lung Care Foundation, more than 50% of adolescents have a higher incidence of chest symptoms, 29% have asthma, 40% are obese [200% higher incidence of asthma],” he added. “Children are suffering.”