18:30 GMT28 November 2020
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    Because of restricted vehicle traffic during the lockdown, Delhi’s air quality has improved immeasurably. However, burning "stubble" - the stalks left in arable land after the harvest - has caused smog to return to India's capital which is expected to linger until after the Diwali festival, which falls on 14 November this year.

    Earlier this month, Indian healthcare experts warned that increasing air pollution in Delhi may further trigger the surge of COVID-19 cases as well as causing fatalities among people suffering respiratory ailments. 

    In light of how serious it would be for Delhi’s air quality to deteriorate again this year, India's central government has issued regulations banning pollution with a jail term of up to five years and a fine of up to INR 1 crore  ($135,000).

    The ordinance entails setting up an 18-member commission for Air Quality Management for the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

    The commission — comprising civil servants and experts — will examine "stubble" burning, vehicle pollution and dust pollution among other causes for air quality deteriorating in the northern parts of the country. The commission will submit its annual reports to Parliament and will be a central body for all purposes.

    On Thursday, the Delhi government headed by Arvind Kejriwal launched the “Green Delhi” app in a bid to allow the more than 30 million people living in the region to complain about violation of anti-pollution norms. The smartphone app will enable users to report pollution-causing instances with photos and videos as evidence for the complaint.

    ​In its fight to breathe fresh and clean air again, Delhi will also be housing India’s first “Smog Tower” – like a giant diffuser that would soak up toxins and clean the air – which will be set up in the capital's Connaught Place area. The announcement about this tower was made by Kejriwal on 9 October, who also revealed that a budget of around $2.7 million will be allocated for its construction. 

    Similar smog towers are to be erected in other parts of the national capital region as well.

    Anti-smog guns have also been deployed around the city to get the heavy air stuck between high-rise buildings to get moving.

    ​Although these larger measures need time to be introduced, the Delhi government has also tried to urge residents to participate in anti-pollution movements.

    Earlier this month, Kejriwal called for the execution of “Red Light On, Engine Off” movement encouraging drivers to turn off their engine while waiting for the traffic lights to turn green at the signals. The movement garnered positive reactions on social media.

    In the past few weeks, Delhi residents have shared visuals of the capital shrouded in clouds of smog which irritates eyes, triggers headaches and stuffy nose and causes accidents through reduced visibility.

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