Toxic grey smog has sickened tens of thousands of people across Pakistan and India, forcing authorities to shut down schools and outdoor activities.
In Pakistan’s cultural capital city of Lahore, schools, markets and parks are being shut for four days as doctors advised people to wear face masks and stay home and residents reported coughing and breathing problems.
In India’s capital Delhi, the world’s most polluted city, schools shut down from Wednesday until November 18.
The public health crisis has persisted in the region for decades, with researchers blaming smog for thousands of premature deaths across India.
In Lahore, Pakistan, the concentration of dangerous PM 2.5 particles — so tiny they can enter the bloodstream — approached 450 on Thursday, considered hazardous.
Similarly in Delhi, levels of PM2.5 were on Friday almost 35 times the daily maximum recommended by the World Health Organization, according to monitoring firm IQAir.
Experts say the burning of crop residue at the start of the winter wheat-planting season is a key cause of the pollution.
The practice persists despite efforts to persuade farmers to use different methods and threats of punitive action for defying burning bans.
The resultant smoke from the clearing practice has typically accounted for 30 to 40 per cent of Delhi’s October-November pollution, according to the Indian federal air-quality monitoring agency SAFAR.
Eye-stinging and lung-burning smog peaks from October to February when colder air traps pollution, with residents advised to wear face masks outside at all times.
“For the next two months it is going to be worst period,” Delhi resident Pradeep Dund told AFP.
Source : ABC News