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New Delhi orders construction halt as pollution levels soar

New Delhi officials have ordered a two-day halt to construction in an attempt to reduce choking pollution that has cloaked the city in smog and dust.

Days of winds that have carried dirt and dust across northern India

Cyclists pedal on a road enveloped by a thick haze of dust in Greater Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi on Thursday. (R S Iyer/Associated Press)

New Delhi officials have ordered a two-day halt to construction in an attempt to reduce choking pollution that has cloaked the city in smog and dust.

The government's Central Pollution Control Board rated the city's air quality Friday as "severe" — the worst possible category — for the fourth day in a row.

New Delhi's level of PM2.5, tiny particulate matter that can dangerously clog lungs, exceeded 170 Friday morning, more than six times higher than the World Health Organization considers safe.

Buildings are seen blanketed by haze and dust on the outskirts of New Delhi on Thursday. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

The order to halt construction, which was issued Thursday night, came amid days of winds that have carried dirt and dust across northern India, causing pollution to spike in numerous cities and forcing dozens of flight cancellations.

The New Delhi government has made scattered attempts in recent years to try to control worsening air pollution, including stricter emission norms for cars and a tax on diesel-fueled trucks entering the city. But experts say there is little that can be accomplished without concerted national efforts, and pollution has only gotten worse.