New Delhi declares state of emergency over toxic smog

NEW DELHI, Nov 9 (Reuters) - The Indian capital declared a pollution emergency on Thursday as toxic smog hung over the city for a third day and air quality worsened by the hour.

Illegal crop burning in the farm states surrounding New Delhi, vehicle exhaust emissions in a city with limited public transport and swirling construction dust have caused the crisis, which arises every year.

The problem has been compounded this year by still conditions, the weather office said.

A U.S. embassy measure of tiny particulate matter PM 2.5 showed a reading of 608 at 10 a.m. when the safe limit is 50.

See images of the haunting pollution plaguing New Delhi citizens:

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New Delhi declares state of emergency due to smog
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New Delhi declares state of emergency due to smog
A man walks along a railway platform on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Saumya Khandelwal
A general view of New Delhi during heavy smog, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
A street cleaner works in heavy smog in Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
General view of partment blocks during heavy smog in Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
People talk on a foot bridge in heavy smog in Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
Vehicles drive through heavy smog in Delhi, India, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
Traffic drives through heavy smog in Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
A man cleans dust from a school bus in heavy smog in Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton
A woman walks along the road on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Saumya Khandelwal
A man stands on railway platform on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Saumya Khandelwal
A man exercises in a park on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Saumya Khandelwal
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An hour before it was 591.

PM 2.5 is particulate matter about 30 times finer than a human hair. The particles can be inhaled deep into the lungs, causing heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and respiratory diseases.

Residents complained of headaches, coughs and smarting eyes.

"Waking up with a headache, breathlessness & throat irritation every day," Bhavani Giddu wrote on Twitter.

Many people stayed home and restaurants in some of the city's most crowded parts were deserted.

"I'd like to assure people that the central government shall do everything possible to bring about improvement in air quality in Delhi and the Nation Capital Region," federal environment minister Harsh Vardhan said as authorities faced criticism for failing to take steps to fight a problem that erupts every year.

The haze covered India Gate, a war memorial in the center of the city where Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla paid their respects on Thursday.

The city will curb car use next week, the state government said, the latest attempt to clean the air.

New Delhi will follow an "odd-even" scheme for five days starting Monday in which cars will be allowed on the roads based on whether their number plates are odd or even.

RELATED: Foods that could go extinct due to climate change

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Foods that could go extinct due to climate change
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Foods that could go extinct due to climate change

Avocados

There are many reasons why avocados are more expensive now than ever before, including a farmers' strike. But the biggest threats to avocados are rooted in environmental issues linked to climate change: hot weather and droughts have caused problems everywhere from California to Australia. Avocados are weather-sensitive and slow growing — making them especially susceptible to the effects of climate change. 

(Photo credit should read RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Coffee

In September, a report from the nonprofit Climate Institute concluded that the area around the world fit for coffee production would decrease by 50% due to climate change. In addition to dealing with drought, climate change has made coffee crops more vulnerable to diseases like coffee rust, which have wiped out more than a billion dollars in crops. 

(Photo by Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Beer

Warmer and more extreme weather is hurting hops production in the US, reports ClimateWatch Magazine. 

And droughts could mean less tasty drinks. Some brewers fear that a shortage of river water may force them to brew with groundwater — a change that the head brewer at Lagunitas said "would be like brewing with Alka-Seltzer," according to NPR. 

(Photo via Getty Images)

Oysters

Right now, climate change is actually helping oysters, as they grow faster in warmer waters. However, warmer waters also make oysters more susceptible to oyster drills, reports Seeker, citing a recent study in Functional Ecology

Drills are snails that attack and eat oysters. They're already a multi-million dollar problem for the oyster industry that could get worse thanks to warming water temperatures.

(Photo via Getty Images)

Maple syrup

Climate change is already shifting maple syrup tapping season and impacting the quality of syrup, according to Climate Central. Southern producers fear that eventually, areas like Virginia won't get cold enough for maple syrup production, even during the chilliest time of the year. 

(Photo via Getty Images)

Chocolate

Indonesia and Ghana, which have historically had ideal climates for growing cocoa beans, are already seeing decreased yields of cocoa. Chocolate companies, like Mars, have hired meteorologists to study the impact of changing weather patterns and attempt to reduce damage. 

"If climate conditions in these growing areas begin to change over time, it may influence both the supply and quality available of an ingredient that we use in our products," Katie Johnson, a senior manager on the commercial applied research team, told Business Insider in September. "Anticipating what the climate will be like 10, 20, or even 100 years from now is difficult, though the better we can understand what the different climate scenarios and risks to our supply chain are, the more prepared we can be in the future."

(Photo by Charlotte Lake / Alamy)

Lobsters

If ocean waters increase more than five degrees, baby lobsters may not be able to survive, according to research by the University of Maine Darling Marine Center and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, the Guardian reported. 

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that the Gulf of Maine will reach that temperature by 2100. In other words, Maine's lobsters could go from a more than $330 million business to extinct in 84 years. 

(Photo via Getty Images)

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"It is an emergency situation," said Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot.

In other measures, commercial trucks have been banned from the city unless they are carrying essential commodities, all construction has been stopped and car parking charges raised four times to force residents to use public transport. Schools have been shut for the week.

But experts said these measures were unlikely to bring immediate relief.

"There is such a cloud over us that you probably need artificial rain or some such to clear this," said Dr Vivek Nangia, a pulmonologist at Delhi's Fortis hospital.

Video images shot by ANI, a Reuters affiliate, showed farmers illegally burning crop stubble in Rohtak, about 65 km from Delhi.

Farmers in Haryana, where Rohtak is located, and Punjab, the two big agrarian states surrounding Delhi, burn millions of tonnes of crop waste around October every year before sowing the winter crop of wheat.

State authorities say it is hard to enforce the ban unless farmers, a powerful political constituency, are given funds to buy machinery to clear their land.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said in a Twitter post: "Situation is serious but Punjab helpless as problem is widespread & state has no money to compensate farmers for stubble management." (Editing by Nick Macfie)

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