BBC News reports this weekend that five million masks were being distributed at schools in India’s capital, Delhi, after pollution made the air so toxic officials were forced to declare a public health emergency.

“A Supreme Court-mandated panel imposed several restrictions in the city and two neighbouring states, as air quality deteriorated to ‘severe’ levels, the report said.

“Dangerous particulate levels in the air are about 20 times the WHO maximum.

“The city’s schools have also been closed until at least next Tuesday.

“All construction has been halted for a week and fireworks have been banned. From Monday, the city will introduce a temporary scheme so that only cars with odd or even numbered licence plates can drive on given days, in a bid to cut traffic pollution.

“Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the city had been turned into a ‘gas chamber’,” the report added.

“One account director at market research firm Kantar, which employs several hundred people in the city, told Reuters staff had been told not to come in on Monday.”

The report continued: “Many local residents are furious that the situation remains the same year after year. Municipal workers and vulnerable groups have been given thousands of free high-grade N95 masks in recent years.

“The hashtags #DelhiAirQuality and #FightAgainstDelhiPollition are trending on Twitter.

Bangladesh head coach Russell Domingo (R) wore a mask to training, but said his players would get on with it, AFP Image

“The thick smog also raised concerns for the weekend’s cricket clash between India and Bangladesh. A 2017 match in similar polluted conditions led to Sri Lankan players vomiting on the pitch.

“But Bangladesh’s coach said that despite ‘scratchy eyes’ and sore throats among his players, the game would go ahead.”

According to the report: “More than two million farmers burn 23 million tonnes of crop residue on some 80,000 sq km of farmland in northern India every winter.

“The stubble smoke is a lethal cocktail of particulate matter, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.

“Using satellite data, Harvard University researchers estimated that nearly half of Delhi’s air pollution between 2012 and 2016 was due to stubble burning.

“The burning is so widespread that it even shows up in satellite photos from Nasa.”

  • Top Feature Photo:Two years ago this month, hospital patients in Gurgaon were issued masks amid similar conditions, Getty Images