India’s Supreme Court demanded a New Delhi lockdown as a way to cut air pollution. This includes banning all non-essential travel, and the closing of offices.

This proposal is the first in its type. It comes just as 20 million people battle smog, which forced many schools to close for one week to prevent children from inhaling toxic fumes.

Monday was a tough day for the Delhi government, who resisted the calls of India’s highest court. The Delhi government argued that without coordinated efforts from other countries, the lockdown would have minimal impact on air quality.

This firm stance of the justices is after India – and China – were rebuked globally by leaders for weakening the COP26 Climate Agreement, which was forged last week in Glasgow.

A thick layer of smog hangs over New Delhi on Tuesday morning during the rush hour

New Delhi’s rush hour traffic is characterized by a thick layer surrounded by smog Tuesday morning

The Akshardham temple is pictured amid heavy smog in New Delhi on Tuesday

Pictured in New Delhi’s heavy smog on Tuesday, the Akshardham temple.

Commuters clamber up to a train platform amid heavy smog in the nation's capital on Tuesday

Commuters climb up to a platform on Tuesday in thick smog.

India continues to rely on coal power. It is third in the list of worst polluters after China, the United States. 

Delhi, along with Beijing, rescinded the terms of an agreement saying that all countries would eliminate coal. It was instead agreed that the countries would “phase out” their coal use.

Alok Sharma (COP26 President), a British Cabinet member said this weekend: “We are on our way to making coal history. It is an agreement that we can continue to build upon. However, India and China will need to tell climate-vulnerable nations why they made the decisions they did.  

Delhi is one of the most polluted cities in the world. In winter, the air quality drops to the severe category. There are dangerous amounts of particulates. 

According to the Delhi government, Monday’s submission was submitted before the court. It stated that the lockdown would be meaningful only if other states around the city are included.

Smoke from nearby farmers who have burned crop residues in their fields is one of the causes of winter smog.

Many satellite cities such as Noida, Ghaziabad and Ghaziabad surround Delhi. They are home to many millions.

Smog hangs over traffic in the Delhi rush hour on Tuesday. The toxic air has forced schools in the city to close for a week

On Tuesday, smog hangs above traffic during the Delhi rush hour. Schools in Delhi have been forced to shut down for the week due to toxic fumes.

People travel to work in the Delhi rush hour on Tuesday amid toxic winter smog, in part the result of farmers burning their crop residue in neighbouring states

Toxic winter smog causes people to travel from Delhi on Tuesday, when they have to rush for work.

According to the Delhi government, the lockdown would not have an impact on Delhi’s air quality system because of its small size.

The city acknowledged, however that it was mainly caused by industry.

The city claimed that the contribution of farm fires to PM2.5 was only 4 percent. This is the worst particulate matter, which can cause chronic heart and lung diseases.

Last week, the PM2.5 levels in the city exceeded 500. That is over 30 times more than the maximum safety limits as per the World Health Organization. 

People exercise on a smoggy morning at Lodhi Garden in New Delhi on Tuesday

Lodhi Gardens in New Delhi, Tuesday morning. People exercising

Commuters make their way along a street amid heavy smoggy conditions in New Delhi on Monday

Commuters navigate along a New Delhi street in heavy smog on Monday

Smog is pierced by shafts of sunlight at Lodhi Garden in New Delhi on Tuesday morning

Smog is pierced by shafts of sunlight at Lodhi Garden in New Delhi on Tuesday morning

Delhi, a city of 20 million, is one of the world's most badly polluted

Delhi (a 20-million population) is among the worst polluted places in the globe.

Commuters make their way along a street amid heavy smoggy conditions in New Delhi on November 15

The sun appears red through the smoke

Commuters walk along a New Delhi street on Monday. Left: The smoke makes the sun appear reddish-red.

According to government System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research, Monday’s PM2.5 levels dropped after the winds had dispersed pollutants and hovered around 160.

On Saturday, Delhi’s chief Minister announced that all government offices and schools would be closed for a week. Construction activity will also be prohibited until November 20.

A report from Swiss organization IQAir in 2020 found that India had 22 of 30 polluted major cities. Delhi was ranked as the worst capital worldwide.

In the same year, Lancet reported that 1.67 million Indians died due to pollution from 2019 (including almost 17.500 deaths in Delhi).