New Delhi's toxic smog is back

New Delhi is choking once again.

After months of clear skies, the air quality in India’s capital has plummeted with a thick blanket of toxic smog smothering the city.

Car fumes and industrial emissions are only part of the story.

Every winter, the burning of crop waste in fields sends smoke billowing across India’s north.

Calm weather has aggravated the issue; low wind speeds let deadly pollutants hang in the air.

The particles are so small that they can be carried deep into the lungs, causing cancer and cardiac problems.

Current levels could cause respiratory problems for residents, compounding coronavirus fears.

(SOUNDBITE) (Hindi) NEW DELHI RESIDENT, SACHIN KAUSHIK, SAYING: "The smoke from the burning of grain stubble is entering Delhi slowly, and because of that, we are having difficulty breathing and the children too. This feeling of heat … one can easily sense that stubble is burning and because of that, the pollution level is very high and we are facing difficulties breathing while cycling."

It’s an annual problem with the onset of new crop seasons.

The city made headlines in 2019 for recording the highest levels of pollution, triggering a public health emergency.

Since October, Delhi’s pollution levels have registered 36% higher than a year ago.

The pictures of hazy skies stand in stark contrast to the city’s respite during lockdown.

Video Transcript

- New Delhi is choking once again. After months of clear skies, the air quality in India's capital has plummeted, with a thick blanket of toxic smog smothering the city. Car fumes and industrial emissions are only part of the story. Every winter, the burning of crop waste in fields sends smoke billowing across India's north.

Calm weather has aggravated the issue. Low wind speeds let deadly pollutants hang in the air. The particles are so small, they could be carried deep into the lungs, causing cancer and cardiac problems. Current levels could cause respiratory problems for residents, compounding coronavirus fears.

INTERPRETER: The smoke from the burning grain stubble is entering Delhi slowly, and because of that, we're having difficulty breathing. And the children, too. This feeling of heat-- one can easily sense that the stubble is burning, and because of that, the pollution level is very high. And we're facing difficulties breathing while cycling.

- It's an annual problem with the onset of new crop seasons. The city made headlines in 2019 for recording the highest levels of pollution, triggering a public health emergency. Since October, Delhi's pollution levels have registered 36% higher than a year ago. The pictures of hazy skies stand in stark contrast to the city's respite during lockdown.