Shocking pictures show thousands of Indians praying in a river near Delhi, polluted with toxic foam.
Authorities declared a health emergency in Delhi last week, with air pollution so bad that schools were forced to close and the number of cars on the road was limited.
And the pollution problem also affected the Yamuna River, which supplies drinking water to the nearly 20 million inhabitants of the city.
The river was filled with toxic foam, partly caused by high levels of ammonia from industrial pollutants.
At a Hindu festival, thousands of devotees saw prayers while standing in the toxic foam.
But despite the surprising images, Delhi is not even among the top 10 most polluted cities in India.
People pose for photos while on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, standing in the middle of the foam that covers the polluted Yamuna River.
An Indian Hindu devotee performs rituals in the Yamuna River, covered with chemical foam caused by industrial and domestic pollution
It is in 14th place, with 13 other cities with higher registered pollution levels.
But the spotlight on Delhi recently, with the images of people praying in the toxic river, was the last to show the level of pollution affecting the city.
Praying in rivers is common in India and in the photos of people who wade into the Yamuna River, worshipers marked the Chhath Puja festival.
The festival is held to thank the sun for & # 39; donating the premiums of life on Earth & # 39; and for fulfilling wishes.
Water from the river is chemically treated before it is supplied to millions of Delhi residents as drinking water.
Despite record pollution, Delhi is only the 14th most polluted city in India
An analysis has shown that Delhi is not even in the top 10 of the most polluted places in India.
The city has recently dominated newspaper headlines, with residents struggling to breathe due to poor air quality.
But an analysis of data from the Central Pollution Control Board has shown that there are 13 other cities in India with worse pollution than Delhi.
Jind in Haryana had analyzed the most toxic air among 97 cities.
The average air quality index of Jind was 448. The average AQI of Delhi was 407.
& # 39; The water is absolutely black in color & # 39 ;, said Hari Lal, a New Delhi resident who was on the bank of the river on Wednesday. & # 39; The water is completely chemical. & # 39;
Kujan Sahani, an employee from the eastern state of Bihar, complained that his nose and eyes were burning and he felt breathless.
But despite the dangers of a heavily polluted river, some Indians liked to pose for photos with the foam.
Environmentalists say that many rivers throughout India have become more nasty as the country's economy develops, with urban sewage, agricultural pesticides and industrial effluents flowing freely into waterways despite pollution laws.
And India is not the only country that witnesses the toxic foam phenomenon, with photos of a river in North Jakarta covered with dust.
It is unclear why the foam originated in Indonesia.
It comes when the air pollution in New Delhi and the surrounding areas reached the worst level this year on November 3 and 4.
Hindu women worship the sun god in the polluted waters of the Yamuna River during the Chatth Puja Hindu religious festival in New Delhi, India
Water from the river is chemically treated before it is supplied to millions of Delhi residents as drinking water
Authorities declared a health emergency in Delhi last week, with air pollution so bad that schools were forced to close
A panel appointed by the Supreme Court temporarily prohibited construction activities in the New Delhi region from controlling dust in the air.
Authorities also blocked smoke-breathing trucks from the city streets, experimented with limiting the number of cars on the road, and tried to extinguish stubble and garbage fires and ordered builders to cover construction sites to prevent dust envelops the area.
The government's environmental agency has blamed nearly 50 percent of Delhi's pollution on burning crops.
Thousands of farmers in the northern states of India have ignored a law that prohibits them from burning crops to make way for new ones.
The practice was banned, but because there are no cheap and easy alternatives, many farmers have continued to burn crops.
Burning became widespread in northern India at the end of October and will continue until the end of this month despite governmental directives against it.
But India's air pollution problem extends far beyond the more than 20 million residents of New Delhi.
The northern belt is one of the most densely populated parts of the planet.
The industrial center of Kanpur, where 3 million people live, is followed by 13 Indian cities on a list of World Health Organizations (WHO) with places with the worst air.
Although air quality measurements have consistently remained above 500 for consecutive days, Kanpur, like most other Indian cities, lacks the infrastructure needed to combat air pollution and has taken few emergency measures.
Environmentalists say that many rivers in India have become more dirty as the country's economy develops
& # 39; The water is absolutely black in color & # 39 ;, said Hari Lal, a New Delhi resident who was on the bank of the river on Wednesday
A Hindu couple worship the sun god in the polluted waters of the Yamuna River during the Chatth Puja Hindu religious festival in New Delhi, India
It is believed that the shocking toxic foam is partly caused by high levels of ammonia from industrial pollutants
Air pollution in New Delhi and the surrounding areas reached the worst level this year on 3 and 4 November
Farmers in the Indian granary Punjab and Haryana burn rice fields and stubble each year in preparation for the winter sowing season.
This year, satellites began to detect a significant number of fires at the end of October.
Further analysis of satellite data showed that the peak in fires shifted later in the winter when lower temperatures and weaker wind swelled the accumulation of pollutants.
The shift was driven by a 2009 policy change designed to save groundwater, preventing farmers from transplanting paddy seedlings until mid-June instead of an earlier mid-May date.
India was not the only nation affected by the toxic foam phenomenon, with the substance taking over parts of the East Flood Canal, Marunda, North Jakarta
The reason for the foam on the East Flood Canal in Marunda, North Jakarta, is unknown
Rice is a terribly thirsty crop, and some species require nearly 5,000 liters of water for every kilogram of grain produced.
Sowing late means a late harvest. With less time left for the winter harvest, farmers tend to burn the straw to get rid of it quickly. Paddy straw contains a lot of silica and cannot be used to feed animals.
The monsoon of India also arrived a bit late this year.
After a start in June, it started to retire more than a month later than usual, causing even more delays.
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