New Delhi pollution crisis: Travellers warned as smog causes flight cancellations and car pile-ups

2017-11-13 14:30 - Ishani Chetty
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Cape Town - The smog covering Delhi is fast being compared to a gas chamber. The high levels of pollution have resulted in United Airlines temporarily halting flights to India’s capital, poor visibility has caused car pile-ups while schools have closed during this period due to the health risk. 

Foul cloud of poison

Measurements taken at the US embassy in New Delhi on 6 November show the pollution index are highly hazardous - and packed with a deadly particle referred to as PM 2.5

If this PM 2.5 particle, understood to be "fine particles that are produced as a product of combustion", lodges within your lungs - it can cause damage to the respiratory system.

SEE: What is PM 2.5 and why is New Delhi, Lahore smog so bad? 

As a result the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, Manish Sisodia has ordered the closing of schools after witnessing a child vomit out the window of a school bus –as an apparent effect of the pollution levels, the Not only are the high levels of pollution a health hazard but it has caused car pileups and prompted schools to close during this period, the New York Times reports. 

Here National Geographic provides footage of the 18-car pileup that occurred on 7 November 2017 (Warning - not for sensitive viewers):


According to the World Health Organization (WHO),  the pollution is equivalent to smoking more than two packs of cigarettes a day. The Indian Medical Association has since released a statement calling the situation a ‘public health emergency’ and has asked members of the public to wear masks when outdoors. Delhi’s elected official, Arvind Kejriwal has also compared the state of New Delhi to a ‘gas chamber’.

There are various alleged culprits for the clouded haze enveloping the city – the coal power plants, industrial emissions, agricultural waste disposal through the burning of crops and the large-scale use of motorbikes, cars, and trucks being just a few.

According to Times News, the large coal power plant based on the outskirts of Delhi has been closed since mid-November to prevent an increase of the smog but this has had little impact. The government has  also recently implemented restrictions to prevent an increase in emissions, these include -  no trucks nor heavy-duty vehicles are allowed to enter the city, while some construction projects have been stopped  and road rationing has been put in place. 

SEE: Schools shut as toxic smog hits Delhi 

Travel restrictions

United Airlines decided to temporarily cancel all flights to and from New Delhi due to the poor air quality and has since resumed travel to the city from 13 November 2017. In a statement provided to Bloomberg, United Airlines says, “We are monitoring advisories as the region remains under a public health emergency, and are coordinating with respective government agencies”.

Travellers are warned to be wary of the external conditions and that it poses a health risk. United Airlines advised travellers that are heading to Delhi in the next week to monitor recent flight changes on their site.

The smoggiest of them all

Although one may assume that Delhi is the most polluted city in the world, the World Health Organization has released the list of countries battling the worst smog levels across the world.

Their level of pollution was measured based on the PM 2.5 concentration. With the recent spike in pollution levels in Delhi, WHO measured the PM 2.5 levels to be above 700 micrograms per cubic meter and uninhabitable conditions are set to stand at 300 micrograms per cubic meter.

The capital of India ranks at 11th as it produces an average PM 2.5 of 122 annually.  We decided to take a look at the top five cities with the poorest air quality - the country that ranks number one is Zabol in Iran with PM 2.5 at 217 annually.

Check out the list below:

1.  Zabol , Iran – PM 2.5 at 217

2.  Gwalidor, India – PM 2.5 at 176

3. Allahabad, India – PM 2.5 at 170

4. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – PM 2.5 at 156

5.  Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia – PM 2.5 at 152

SEE: #EcoTravels: 7 Cleaniest cities for 'highest quality of life' 

Social Media response

Locals are calling for the government to provide aid and relief as citizens are struggling to breathe.


According to the USA Today the city is looking to use water cannons from fire trucks in an effort to wash away the haze.

MAPPED: How much longer would you live if SA reduced air pollution 

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