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Crop fires, outlined in red, in the Punjab state of India as seen from space. NASA/ Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team

As of 2016, New Delhi was the 11th most polluted city in the world, which was a positive development compared to 2014, when it had the dubious honor of being number one, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data reported by The Huffington Post.

Now, research by the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) published Friday found that a dangerous new tradition can double air pollution levels in the entire state of Delhi on some fall days.

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A four-day old noxious blanket of smog resting on the Indian capital, New Delhi, that officials expect to worsen over the weekend has prompted a plan to spray water over the city.

On Friday, the government announced, in an unprecedented move, it was finalizing plans to spray water from 100 meters above the city, Reuters reported. It remains unclear how much of the densely populated city of 22 million would be sprayed.

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A family in Delhi ride through the thick smog. Harish Tyagi / EPA

Suffocating smog forced the Indian capital of New Delhi, a city of more than 21 million people, to declare a public health emergency on Tuesday.

As a thick grey haze settled on the city, the government announced Wednesday morning that schools would be closed for the rest of the week as air pollution worsened and criticism escalated over Indian government's failure to curb pollution levels.

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By Madison Feser

A new solar-powered bus is rumbling through the streets of New Delhi, but it's not picking up any passengers. Instead, it's passing on the value of solar power.

Greenpeace India collaborated with the city government to create Solar Comet, India's first solar powered bus that will embark on 20-day educational tour to clear up misconceptions about the solar energy.

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The air pollution in several Indian cities is getting so bad that government officials have initiated drastic measures to protect its citizens from the eye-stinging levels of smog. In fact, the nation's capital of New Delhi currently holds the ominous title of world's most polluted city, CNN reported.

On Sunday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal declared the intense smog levels an "emergency situation," and ordered the shut down of 5,000 schools for the next three days and the halting of construction operations for the next five days. A coal-fired power plant will also be closed for 10 days and roads will be doused with water to suppress dust. If the situation does not improve, Kejriwal might impose odd-even vehicle restrictions that would only permit driving every other day.

"Pollution has increased to an extent that (the) outdoors in Delhi are resembling a gas chamber," Kejriwal said, adding that the smog blanketing the capital is due to crop burning in the neighboring agricultural states of Punjab and Haryana.

The ongoing pollution sparked a protest on Sunday outside of Parliament in the city center. Hundreds of protesters showed up in pollution masks, demanding the government to protect its citizens' right to breathe clean air.

Many people initially blamed the smog on Sunday's Diwali festivities, but Kejriwal said that "fireworks during Diwali marginally added to the pollution … But other things inside Delhi did not drastically change. So the smog is mainly due to smoke from farm fires."

Still, the air pollution in Delhi has notably worsened over the years from several factors including its growing population of 25 million, rapid urbanization, an increase in traffic and emissions from diesel-burning cars, coal-fired power plants and other industrial emissions. This winter's weather patterns also means less wind to circulate the air, the Associated Press explained.

Following in New Delhi's footsteps, officials in the city of Lucknow, the capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh, have also been forced to close schools on Monday and Tuesday due to ghastly pollution levels.

According to the Associated Press, New Delhi and Lucknow have registered the levels of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers, one of the deadliest and most dangerous forms of air pollution) above 400 micrograms per cubic meter on Monday. That's more than 40 times the safety limit set by the World Health Organization, and more than six times the limit set by Indian law. For comparison, Los Angeles—one of the most polluted cities in the U.S.—has a PM2.5 reading of 74 as of Monday morning.

Air is safe to breathe at 150, but the Air Quality Index from the US Embassy in Delhi reported that the city's terrible air quality is literally off the charts at a "hazardous" 999.

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