As World’s Air Gets Worse, India Struggles to Breathe

“They are taking the undue advantage of being government organizations,” said V. Selvarajan, secretary of Green Circle, a group that works on environmental issues.

The subway system was ordered to pay a fine of 500,000 rupees, or around $7,000.

In the coming weeks, air pollution here is expected to hit a choking peak. Winter will slow down the winds, meaning that still air and cooler temperatures will trap the soot and smoke that rises up from India’s incredibly crowded, growing cities.

For those in the pollution-mask business, these are profitable days.

Four years ago, when Jai Dhar Gupta, an Indian entrepreneur who went to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, started selling pollution masks, he was lucky to move 200 a day.

Now, he says, his company, Nirvana Being, sells thousands in a single day.

“We’ve seen online orders coming from villages, the northeast, Goa, places I don’t even know,” Mr. Gupta said. But it makes sense, he said, because “this is a pan-India problem.”

So many of India’s larger failures feed into the dirty air. Lacking a good system for waste disposal, for instance, many people simply burn their trash, sending plastic, rubber and other toxins into the air.

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