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Thousands run in Delhi’s largest marathon despite high pollution levels

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Updated: 13:26 GMT, Nov 19, 2017 | Published: 13:25 GMT, Nov 19, 2017 |
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Thousands run in Delhi's largest marathon despite high pollution levels

Athletes from across the globe ran in New Delhi’s biggest running race on Sunday (November 19) despite pollution levels remaining at “unhealthy” levels.

Around 35,000 participants, unfazed by health warnings by doctors, took part at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon in the Indian capital, which has been under a blanket of smog for almost two weeks. Indian Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore flagged off the event.

Doctors had declared a public health emergency in New Delhi and had urged the organizers to postpone the race due to poor air quality.

The Delhi High Court on Thursday (November 16) allowed the marathon after the organisers assured the court that they were ready to deal with medical emergencies.

A participant, Hemant Sharma, said the visibility had improved and with smog showing signs of receding, they had a good time at the event.

Although the skies were a little clear, the pollution levels continued to be at ‘unhealthy’ category with poisonous airborne particles, known as PM 2.5, remaining times the safe limit.

A U.S. embassy measure showed levels of PM 2.5, dropped to 179 on Sunday -three times the upper limit of “good” quality air at 50.

A major source of the smog at this time of year across northern India, including New Delhi, is farmers burning the stubble of the previous crop to prepare for new plantings in November. In addition to crop burning, a combination of industrial smog, vehicle exhaust and dust envelop the region every year as winter approaches and wind speeds drop.

An estimated $600 million is needed to provide farmers with alternatives, but the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and opposition parties in power in New Delhi and nearby Punjab states are squabbling over who will pay.

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