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India's air quality has plummeted to the worst possible category, the government's Central Pollution Control Board said on Friday.
The level of PM2.5, a tiny particulate matter that can dangerously block lungs, read 187, over six times higher than the World Health Organization considers safe.
The board urged people to circumvent jogging outdoors in the early morning or after sundown and to keep their medications handy if they are asthmatic. It as well advised people to wear masks as a measure.
The recent air pollution data released in March this year from the World Health Organization gave India the dubious distinction of having the world's 10 most polluted cities.
India's capital, which once was the world's most polluted city, ranks sixth. But experts say the data does not propose that New Delhi's air quality has improved, rather that more Indian cities' air has worsened.
A Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Authority warned on Thursday that air pollution in the capital region is probable to peak from November 1 as a change in wind direction brings the deadly fumes from stubble-burning on farms in the neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana into the region.
"Weather conditions are projected to become adverse from November 1," warned the India Meteorological Department.
Farmers have been ignoring government warnings of imposing a penalty for burning, saying they can't afford to buy harvesting machines that cost up to 50,000 rupees ($675) apiece.
Another bother is the approaching Diwali festival; late earlier this year Delhi was covered in a malignant air pollution caused in part by the infinite firecrackers let off for the festival, forcing authorities to close power stations, ban construction and restrict on rubbish burning.
"We are heading into a deadly cocktail with Diwali and peak stubble burning time," an official said on Thursday.
Some activists urged India's Supreme Court to order an absolute ban on firecrackers this year as Diwali festival falls on November 7. The court, however, only imposed certain conditions for the sale and use of firecrackers.
Among those was an order that firecrackers could only be set off between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. on November 7 and can not be sold online. It also set the kind of firecrackers that could be manufactured and sold, limiting them to less-polluting types.
Authorities also are trying to cut down the amount of dust in the air by sprinkling water in many neighborhoods and ordering builders to cover construction sites.