Air Pollution in Delhi Forces School Closures, Anti-Driving Measures

Nov 6, 2023

Air Quality Index

Air pollution levels in Delhi, India, have reached such extreme levels this week that the city has closed schools. It has also announced bans on activities that create smog. They include driving and construction work.

Readings on the air quality index (AQI) reached 500 in Delhi on Friday. The AQI is a tool which measures the dangers of breathing polluted air. 500 is the scale’s maximum, or worst, possible score. 

The weekend saw a dropoff in traffic in Delhi. But the city’s AQI numbers remained in the upper 400s. And there was little sign of relief. The World Health Organization says a 100 on the AQI is enough to begin irritating lungs and causing issues for those with breathing problems. Anything above 400 is highly dangerous. This is even the case for healthy adults.

“The number of patients with breathing problems has increased,” Dr. Nikhil Modi of Delhi’s Apollo Hospital told The Guardian. “People of all ages are affected by this. It is time for us to wear masks and go out only when needed.” Modi also stated that more people are having coughs, colds, and irritated eyes.

Elementary and middle schools in Delhi are closed until at least November 10. And many high schools have moved to remote learning. City officials announced a 20,000-rupee ($240) fine for anyone driving an older model car or one that spews high emissions. They also banned all non-essential demolition and construction work. 

Delhi routinely ranks as one of the most polluted cities in the world. This occurs especially in early November. Wheat farmers in nearby provinces burn off the chaff from their fields. It sends clouds of smog into the city. Colder temperatures ensure the smog settles for weeks. 

Reflect: How would you rate the air quality in your neighborhood? How do you think a city or community can help reduce air pollution and improve air quality for its residents?

Based on the information in both the article and the infographic, Delhi’s air quality would be classified as _______ in the air quality index. (Common Core RI.5.7; RI.6.7)
a. moderate
b. unhealthy
c. very unhealthy
d. hazardous
For more formative assessments, visit to start a free trial.

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