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Environment

What One Suffocating City Means for the World

News images from New Delhi seem cut from an apocalyptic outbreak film.
A white foam of chemical pollution blankets New Delhi's Yamuna river.
A white foam of chemical pollution blankets New Delhi's Yamuna river.Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters

Officials have implored the people of New Delhi to stay inside, indefinitely. Five million children in India’s capital have been handed face masks. Everyone is to keep windows closed. Contrary to the most fundamental medical advice, the city’s chief minister urged residents this week to “avoid outdoor physical activities.”

News images seem cut from an apocalyptic outbreak film. One of India’s holiest rivers is covered in toxic foam that looks like white cotton candy. Midday visibility is like a foggy dusk. The air reportedly causes people’s eyes to burn.