The Package | 12 Stories

India’s Air-pocalypse: Understanding the air pollution crisis in Delhi and beyond

A toxic spectre is haunting the nation. How shall we tackle it?

Published : Nov 06, 2023 11:55 IST - 2 MINS READ

Students wear masks amid dense smog near the India Gate in New Dellhi on  November 4, 2023.

Students wear masks amid dense smog near the India Gate in New Dellhi on November 4, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

As of November 6, the air quality in Delhi remains critically poor, according to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR)-India. Reports suggest that this situation is expected to deteriorate further. Pollution levels in and around Delhi have consistently been in the “critical” category, with air quality index (AQI) readings in the range of 400 at various locations for the past few days. On the morning of November 6, SAFAR recorded an overall average AQI of 471. In response, the Delhi government has implemented a “work from home” policy for 50 per cent of government employees as part of their pollution control plan.

Data from the Central Pollution Control Board reveals that Delhi’s AQI has worsened by more than 200 points since October 27. The most severe air quality was reported on November 3, surpassing the previous high of 471 recorded on November 12, 2021. There has been some improvement due to better wind speed, but a dense and toxic haze still blankets the national capital for the sixth consecutive day.

Unfortunately, the issue of air pollution is not a new one and is not limited to Delhi or the National Capital Region (NCR). Several cities in India have been grappling with air pollution for decades, with little substantial action taken beyond political and policy discussions.

In the case of Delhi, there have been numerous studies, reports, papers, seminars, monographs, speeches, and explanations on the subject. A recent study has identified Delhi as the most polluted city in the world, with residents potentially losing a significant portion of their lifespan due to pollution. The study, called the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), was published in August 2023 by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. It also indicated that the entire Indian population of 1.3 billion people lives in areas with an annual average particulate pollution level exceeding the WHO’s limit of 5 μg/m3.

Still, nothing much has been done to check air pollution and the issue continues to persist like a haunting spectre in India. In this context, we have selected a collection of insightful stories from our archives to help you better understand the air pollution issue and make informed decisions regarding your use of fossil fuels. Please feel free to share your comments with us at

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