The heavy smog that blanketed New Delhi was so bad even the Taj Mahal of Agra seem to have been missing for a time.

India announced a national emergency when New Delhi’s pollution reached an alarming level making it unsafe for residents to stay outdoors especially.  

The Indian capital’s chief minister likened the situation to living in a gas chamber.  Children weren’t allowed to attend school and some residents decided to get out of the city in the meantime.  Even the famous Taj Mahal of Agra seem to be lost for a time.

Pollution of this magnitude made it possible for satellites to capture the smog images from space.  The smog was so thick and dense according to those who have monitored from above.  Images reveal that Faisalabad, Kota, and New Delhi were covered by a blanket of smog, with the capital getting the most coverage.

Some sectors blame it on the recently held Diwali festival which is typically celebrated with heavy fireworks.  However, the people of Punjab and Haryana who have been burning fires could be the major culprit for the heavy pollution strongly felt on Monday and onwards.  

A year ago, the government was already advised to ban the practice of burning straw waste after a harvest.  However, it seems that the farmers haven’t ceased from resorting to this hazardous activity.

Farmers burn more than 30 million tons of straw waste in preparation for wheat planting season.

Pollution in the air is measured based on the amount of particulates suspended in the atmosphere.  Particulates are very minute soot released into the air through burning of fuels including oil and gas.  Particulates remain in the atmosphere for quite a long time and are key components that aggravate the build up of air pollution.

The average amount of particulates, namely PM10 and PM2.5 are computed on a per cubic meter basis.  According to India’s air quality and weather forecasters, the safe PM10 level is 100 μm/m3 while a stable PM2.5 level is at 60 μg/m3.  These are already the upper limits.

The heavy smog that covered Delhi was 876 μm/m3 and 680 μm/m3 respectively for particulates PM10 and PM2.5.  Luckily, both particulate levels have gone down but are still beyond the upper limits.

Experts are hoping to see more improvements in the coming days and a very visible Taj Mahal.

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