June 15, 2018 / 7:05 AM / 10 days ago

India's capital battered by dust storms as it awaits the rain

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Authorities in the Indian capital suspended all construction on Friday and sent out more water trucks to spray the streets in the hope of improving the quality of the city’s air befouled by days of dust storms.

FILE PHOTO: Buildings are seen blanketed by haze and dust on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, June 14, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File photo

The air quality levels in Delhi, one of the world’s most polluted cities based on World Health Organization data, ranged from “very unhealthy” to “hazardous” on Friday as a steady breeze blew.

“Decision to ramp up sprinkling, close construction activity till Sunday,” environmentalist Sunita Narain said on Twitter after attending an emergency meeting called by the city’s lieutenant governor, Anil Baijal.

Commuters make their way amidst haze and dust in Chandigarh, India, June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Ajay Verma

“Focus on big tree plantation this monsoon,” Narain added.

A man exercises amidst haze and dust near Sukhna lake in Chandigarh, India, June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Ajay Verma

South Asia’s central plain sees scorching temperatures and strong winds that whip up fierce dust storms at this time of the year, just before the onset of the rainy season.

The Central Pollution Control Board says the wind is blowing dust from the desert state of Rajasthan into Delhi.

People complaining of respiratory problems have been flocking to city hospitals.

“Patients with no history of respiratory ailments are complaining of cough and breathing issues,” said Prashant Saxena, a pulmonology specialist at the Max Smart Super Specialty Hospital.

India is home to the world’s 14 most polluted cities, based on the amount of particulate matter under 2.5 micrograms found in every cubic meter of air.

Reporting by Suhail Hassan Bhat; Editing by Robert Birsel

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