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NEW DELHI, Dec 16, 2015:

India’s top court on Wednesday ordered a temporary ban on the sale of large diesel vehicles in and around New Delhi and slapped a stiff levy on trucks entering the capital to try to curb record air pollution in the city.

The Supreme Court ordered sales of all diesel vehicles with an engine capacity of more than 2,000cc to be halted for the next three months in the capital and nearby suburbs.

It also banned trucks from entering New Delhi if they’re over 10 years old or are transiting through the city.

In addition, all taxis in the area, including private ride-hailing services such as Uber, have to switch to compressed natural gas by March 31.

Last year, the World Health Organisation named New Delhi the world’s most polluted city, with 12 other Indian cities ranking among the worst 20.

Air pollution contributes to more than 600,000 deaths each year in India.

This year in New Delhi, Indian environment monitoring authorities have found record levels of the tiny, inhalable particles that are measured to indicate pollution levels.

The tiny particles — called PM2.5 — are of particular concern because, with diameters no greater than 2.5 micrometers, they’re small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs.

For the ordinary person, the effects of air pollution in New Delhi are palpable: grey, overladen skies, difficulty in breathing and the smell of vehicle exhaust that overhangs the city.

The Supreme Court’s rulings were widely welcomed by environmentalists, who said strong action was required as the city was choking with dense smog, caused by winter fog and dirty air.

Diesel vehicles spewing black clouds of exhaust, construction dust and the burning of crop stubble in farms in neighbouring states all contribute to extreme air pollution in New Delhi.

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