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19 photos show just how bad the air pollution is right now in New Delhi

19 photos show just how bad the air pollution is right now in New Delhi
Indian visitors walk through the courtyard of Jama Masjid mosque amid heavy smog in New Delhi. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP/Getty Images)

The thick, toxic smog enveloping New Delhi this week has closed schools, snarled traffic and postponed sporting events.

New Delhi's chief minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that the megacity of 20 million people had become a "gas chamber," blaming the air pollution on crop burning in neighboring Indian states.

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New Delhi's toxic smog even beats Beijing's globally infamous pollution, with the deadly level of carcinogenic pollutants in the Indian capital's air roughly 10 times the reading in the Chinese capital. Government officials say the city's pollution levels in recent days have hit 30 times the World Health Organization's safe level. The Indian Medical Assn. has appealed to the government to declare a "public health emergency."

Northern India is often covered by a thick, soupy smog as winter approaches, caused by a combination of crop burning, construction dust, factory emissions and garbage fires. Low temperatures and low wind speeds make the problem worse.

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Based on data from 2011 to 2015, WHO named Delhi the world's most polluted mega-city, topping Mumbai, Cairo and Kolkata, India. Illnesses tied to pollution claimed the lives of as many as 2.5 million Indian people in 2015, according to a study by the Lancet medical journal.

Indian commuters ride amid heavy smog in New Delhi.
Indian commuters ride amid heavy smog in New Delhi. (Prakash Singh / AFP/Getty Images)
An Indian rag-picker walks amid heavy smog in New Delhi.
An Indian rag-picker walks amid heavy smog in New Delhi. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP/Getty Images)
An Indian policeman tries to fend off the polluted air with a handkerchief.
An Indian policeman tries to fend off the polluted air with a handkerchief. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP/Getty Images)
Indian visitors sit on the steps outside Jama Masjid amid heavy smog in New Delhi.
Indian visitors sit on the steps outside Jama Masjid amid heavy smog in New Delhi. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP/Getty Images)
Indian laborers work on a construction site in New Delhi.
Indian laborers work on a construction site in New Delhi. (Dominique Faget / AFP/Getty Images)
An Indian schoolgirl covers her face with a handkerchief amid heavy smog in New Delhi.
An Indian schoolgirl covers her face with a handkerchief amid heavy smog in New Delhi. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP/Getty Images)
An Indian sweeper cleans a road amid heavy smog in New Delhi.
An Indian sweeper cleans a road amid heavy smog in New Delhi. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP/Getty Images)
Smog obscures India Gate, a war memorial in New Delhi.
Smog obscures India Gate, a war memorial in New Delhi. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP/Getty Images)
Delhi shut all primary schools as pollution levels hit nearly 30 times the World Health Organization safe level.
Delhi shut all primary schools as pollution levels hit nearly 30 times the World Health Organization safe level. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP/Getty Images)
A homeless Indian sits on a road median amid heavy smog in New Delhi.
A homeless Indian sits on a road median amid heavy smog in New Delhi. (Sajjad Hussain / AFP/Getty Images)
A Nihang, or traditional Sikh army member, crosses railway tracks amid dense smog near Amritsar railway station.
A Nihang, or traditional Sikh army member, crosses railway tracks amid dense smog near Amritsar railway station. (Narinder Nanu / AFP/Getty Images)
Heavy smog and fog conditions also reached the outskirts of Amritsar, a city in northwestern India.
Heavy smog and fog conditions also reached the outskirts of Amritsar, a city in northwestern India. (Narinder Nanu / AFP/Getty Images)
Traffic moves through heavy smog in Faridabad, a suburb of New Delhi.
Traffic moves through heavy smog in Faridabad, a suburb of New Delhi. (Money Sharma / AFP/Getty Images)
Animals as well as humans endured the smog in Greater Noida, near New Delhi.
Animals as well as humans endured the smog in Greater Noida, near New Delhi. (R. S. Iyer / Associated Press)
Rajpath Avenue is engulfed in smog near President House, the official residence of the Indian president in New Delhi.
Rajpath Avenue is engulfed in smog near President House, the official residence of the Indian president in New Delhi. (EPA/Shutterstock)
A man meditates as the Lodhi garden is engulfed in heavy smog in New Delhi.
A man meditates as the Lodhi garden is engulfed in heavy smog in New Delhi. (Rajat Gupta / EPA/Shutterstock)
Undeterred by the smog and smoke, a woman performs yoga in the Lodhi garden in New Delhi.
Undeterred by the smog and smoke, a woman performs yoga in the Lodhi garden in New Delhi. (Rajat Gupta / EPA/Shutterstock)
A man exercises in the Lodhi garden in New Delhi.
A man exercises in the Lodhi garden in New Delhi. (Rajat Gupta / EPA/Shutterstock)

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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