More than 20 million people woke last week to a thick, acrid, and noxious smog that settled densely across the Indian capital.

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    Primary schools were forced to shut, vehicles restricted from traveling on roads and construction brought to a halt as a hazy gray enveloped New Delhi, blocking buildings from view and prompting residents to panic buy air purifiers.

    New Delhi’s current toxic skies are reminiscent of another major Asian capital that about a decade ago was famous for a smog so thick that it could shroud entire skyscrapers from view: Beijing.

    What followed was a rollout of new regulations, including restricting the number of vehicles on the roads in major cities, tightening environmental oversight and controls on emissions, building a nationwide system of air monitoring stations, and reining in coal and other heavy-polluting industries.

    Traditionally, toward the end of the year after the winter harvest, millions of farmers clear their leftover rice stubble by setting fields alight to prepare for the incoming wheat crop.

    At a nationwide level, India launched its Clean Air Programme in 2019, ushering in strategies across 24 states and union territories to reduce particulate matter concentration by 40% by 2025-26.

    To tackle the problem the city this year plans to induce rain to wash away the dust – a method adopted by other Asian countries, including China, Indonesia and Malaysia.


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