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New Delhi restricts vehicles as smog chokes India

AFP NEW DELHI (AFP-Jiji) — New Delhi banned all construction, barred trucks from entering the city and announced stringent restrictions on private car use on Thursday, seeking to combat a massive spike in pollution across large swathes of India and Pakistan.

Tens of thousands of schools in Delhi and surrounding states remained closed as a hazardous fog of toxic pollution cloaked the region for a third day, bringing growing calls for urgent government action to tackle what doctors are calling a public health emergency.

“The situation in Delhi is so bad and if the pollution can be brought down in any way, we will do it,” the city’s transport minister Kailash Gahlot told reporters as he announced plans to limit private car use to alternate days from next Monday.

Authorities in the city had earlier ordered a ban on all construction work and barred trucks from entering the city as public pressure on the government mounted.

Around 50,000 mostly diesel-fueled trucks pass through India’s capital every night and they are a major contributor to the pollution plaguing the city.

Air quality typically worsens before the onset of winter as cooler air traps pollutants near the ground and prevents them from dispersing into the atmosphere, a phenomenon known as inversion.

Low winds and the annual post-harvest burning of crop stubble in the northern farming states of Punjab and Hariyana have caused the levels of dangerous pollutants in the air to spike to many times the levels considered safe.

Figures on the U.S. embassy website showed levels of PM2.5 — the smallest particulates that cause most damage to health — spiked to over 1,000 on Wednesday afternoon in Delhi, though by Thursday afternoon they had fallen to 400.Speech

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