Rain brings relief from smog in New Delhi, the capital of India

Following overnight rain in New Delhi and its suburbs, authorities are contemplating cloud seeding to ameliorate the toxic air gripping the Indian capital.

New Delhi, which held the unenviable title of the most polluted city in the world until Thursday, saw its air quality index (AQI) rise to 158 on Friday, marking a welcome change from the “hazardous” levels of 400-500 experienced during the previous week, according to Swiss group IQAir.

The local government postponed its decision to restrict vehicle use between Nov. 13-20 following the rain, which helped increase wind speed.

The rule dictates that vehicles with odd registration numbers are allowed on the road on odd dates and even numbers on even dates, with environmental experts previously stating that it has been more effective in de-congesting roads than in reducing pollution.

Local Environment Minister Gopal Rai announced that the government will review the decision after Diwali, the festival of lights, when many people defy a ban on firecrackers, causing a spike in air pollution.

India’s weather department forecast intermittent rain over New Delhi and adjoining areas on Friday, with the Indian capital expected to remain largely dry on Saturday.

Kolkata in India’s east ranked the highest globally with an AQI of 189, while air quality in India’s financial capital of Mumbai also significantly improved due to showers in nearby coastal areas.

This year, the declining air quality has overshadowed the cricket World Cup hosted by India.

Across the border in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore, heavy rains improved air quality, which decreased to 129 from a high of 422 earlier in the week, prompting a four-day closure of most businesses and offices.

Amir Mir, the information minister for the Pakistani province of Punjab, announced that markets would now be allowed to reopen on Friday, but restaurants, offices, schools, cinemas, and parks would remain closed until Monday.

Scientists and authorities had initially planned to seed clouds in New Delhi around Nov. 20 to trigger heavy rain, marking the first such effort to clean the air.

The city is enveloped in a thick layer of smog every year ahead of winter, as heavy, cold air traps dust, vehicle emissions, and smoke from burning crop stubble in neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana.

The local government of the city of 20 million people had previously closed all schools and halted construction activities to combat pollution.

Reporting by Tanvi Mehta, Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Additional reporting by Mubasher Bukhari in Lahore; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Peter Graff

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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