Volunteers and policemen wear pollution masks and stand at a busy crossing with the banner saying obey odd and even, remove…
Volunteers and policemen wear pollution masks and stand at a busy crossing with the banner saying obey odd and even, remove pollution, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 4, 2019.

New Delhi has banned half its private cars from being on the roads Monday as the Indian capital continues to battle dense, noxious smog.

Pollution levels in the city have hit a three-year high, causing residents to suffer burning eyes, sore throats and shortness of breath.

Authorities banned private cars with license plates ending in odd numbers from being on the streets, handing out fines of nearly $60 US to transgressors.  Drivers in the city of more than 18 million people and 8.8 million registered motor vehicles have been asked to follow the odd-even road rationing plan until November 15.   Under the plan, cars will only only drive on odd and even dates that correspond with the last digit of the license plate number.

Also on Monday, authorities in the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh deployed an air purifying truck at the popular tourist destination of the Taj Mahal.

Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport is packed with people whose flights were either delayed, cancelled or diverted due to low visibility.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) said Sunday the capital's average air quality index (AQI) hit 494, the highest since November 6, 2016, when it was 497.

AQI is considered good when the level is below 50 and satisfactory when it's under 100.

AQI between 301 and 500 is considered "hazardous"  for all population groups. It is not measured past 500.

Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that the pollution level was "unbearable" and urged the central government to intervene.

New Delhi, ranked the world's most polluted city by Greenpeace and AirVisual, routinely gets more polluted at this time of the year. The air quality gets noticeably worse as winter approaches and farmers clear their fields by burning scrub. The pollution is also made worse by smoke from firecrackers lit all across the region to celebrate Diwali, Hinduism's biggest holiday.

The local governments have ordered all schools and colleges to remain closed at least until Tuesday.  Drivers in the city of more than 18 million people and 8.8 million registered motor vehicles have been asked to follow the odd-even road rationing plan until November 15. Under the plan, cars will only only drive on odd and even dates that correspond with the last digit of the license plate number.

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