India orders 'work from home' over Delhi pollution

India’s top court has issued a "work from home" order over toxic pollution concerns in the country’s capital.

The Supreme Court told authorities on Monday (November 15) to shut offices in and around New Delhi and nearby cities, allowing millions to return home while officials to seek way to reduce hazardous air pollution.

New Delhi, in the north of India, has been battling a toxic haze since early November.

City authorities have already taken emergency measures to close schools and cease building work for four days from Saturday (November 13).

The court also sought measures to halt non-essential vehicle traffic, cut industrial pollution and limit dust.

Resident Geeta Jain explains the impact the pollution is having on people’s physical health:

"Nowadays everyone is having breathing problems, irritation in the eyes as soon as they step out. It feels as if one should not step out but one feels suffocated sitting in the house so, it is important to go out as well. It is important to be physical. So several times, we come out and return because it feels as if there is smoke everywhere. Even if we wear masks but we feel irritation in the eyes."

The court also sought urgent steps to rein in crop waste fires in the neighboring states of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, set by hundreds of farmers looking to clear fields for a new sowing season.

Recent efforts to reduce the burning of crop waste - a major source of air pollution during winter - have seen little benefit.

On Monday, Delhi recorded an air index quality of 343 on a scale of 500, a sign of “very poor conditions” that can cause respiratory illness on prolonged exposure.

The capital experienced severe conditions late last week as temperatures dropped and the index reached 499.

Although the court did not set a deadline for the action by authorities, it will next take up the pollution issue on Wednesday (November 17).

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