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'We Are All Suffering': Hazardous Smog Leaves New Delhi Choking for Over a Week

The Air Quality Index showed showed 'off the chart' measurements at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi

Andrea Germanos

Protesters hit the streets and emergency measures were rolled out as alarming levels of air pollution have left residents of India's capital gasping for fresh air for more than a week.

"It's been a nightmare," said Delhi resident Tara Chowdhry to Reuters. "My toddler and I woke up from a nap coughing as if pepper had been sprinkled on our throats."

According to the Indian Medical Association, "this a pollution epidemic."

The smog was so bad, said New Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to media on Sunday, that the outdoor air resembled "a gas chamber."

Putting figures on the situation, CNN reports that

Measurements taken at the U.S. Embassy in Delhi put the city's Air Quality Index at 999 on Monday, off the standard chart, which finishes at the "hazardous" level of 500.

By comparison, the highest AQI level recorded Monday in Baoding—China's most polluted city—was 298.

With some residents angry at what they see as a slow government response to the situation, the Washington Post reports that "[m]ask-wearing protesters took to the streets of India's capital Sunday."

"The public needs to be aware that our children are suffering, we are all suffering," said one of the protesters.

Some residents have also taken to social media to let their "smog selfies" spotlight the air quality crisis.

One of them, Instagram user Rizowana Hussaini, wrote in a caption accompanying her photo: "This is not the landscape of some dystopian fiction of a far-off future that a movie director has constructed. This is it. We've officially reached the point where we've turned the ONE most basic biological need—the very air we breathe—into poison."

Behind me is either the Rashtrapati Bhawan or the India Gate. You can't tell, because you can't see it. This is not the landscape of some dystopian fiction of a far-off future that a movie director has constructed. This is it. We've officially reached the point where we've turned the ONE most basic biological need - the very air we breathe - into poison. We've killed air. And we're killing ourselves. Please, please, for the love of everything that is still sane, shake loose your egos. This is about your survival. Any other debate is redundant. Thanks @jpaonam for nominating me for the #MaskTheSmogChallenge. I nominate the following people to also post a picture of themselves with the smog to make people aware of what is pressing us. @iseestarwhales @anachronomaly @anonyaachoudhury @kangkanika #smog #savetheplanet #savemothernature #saveearth #pollution #stoppollution #cleanairisourright #savedelhi #saveyourselves #wakeup #myrighttobreathe

A photo posted by Rizowana Hussaini (@fadedredrose) on

Others social media users have been taking to Twitter using the hashtags #DelhiSmog or #DelhiChokes:




Delhi's government on Sunday also announced over a dozen emergency measures in response to the smog, including closing all of the city's schools, putting a 10-day pause on an area coal power plant, and issuing a temporrary ban on some diesel-powered generators.

Though some have put blame on firecrackers and fireworks from recent Diwali celebrations as the culprit for the severe air pollution, images published by NASA point to burning of crops in the neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens

"By most measurements," National Geographic wrote earlier this year, the territory of Delhi is "the most polluted area in the world."

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