SIROHI, India (Reuters) – A sandstone quarry near the village of Sirohi, on the outskirts of the Indian city of New Delhi, is a reminder that it’s not just fireworks and crop burning that are causing the capital’s pollution problems.
The site was previously part of the Aravalli mountain range, that stretches nearly 700 km (435 miles) through northern and western India. That was until hundreds of workers hollowed out one of its hills, mining for rocks and sand for construction.
It is the same in many other parts of the Aravallis, which used to protect Delhi from dust rolling in from the nearby Thar Desert. Beginning in October, stubble farmland around Delhi, along with vehicle and industrial emissions, and the lighting of firecrackers during Hindu festivals combine to create a toxic haze that can hang over the city for months.
Environmental experts say the dust blowing in from surrounding areas, which are becoming increasingly arid due to rising temperatures and shrinking forests, also plays a role in Delhi’s pollution woes.
In May and June, the capital was hit by huge dust storms that forced residents indoors and canceled flights, worrying authorities in a period that outside the main “pollution season” between October and December.