Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) is planning to use satellite imagery to identify pollution hotspots in and around Delhi before scientists can develop a regional action plan to fight the menace.
This move is part of the comprehensive plan to combat air pollution in the Capital. The plan aims to bring down the annual average of PM2.5 down by 70% to meet the clean air standard. It will address all sources of air pollution but will take more stringent actions against combustion sources like vehicles, industries, power plants and waste burning.
“It becomes easier to fight pollution if we can identify its source and location. The idea to take the help of satellite imageries was mooted after it was reported in the media in late 2016 that NASA satellite pictures showed crop fires were raging across western states despite a ban,” said an EPCA member.
That satellite imagery could be of immense help in tackling pollution was also pointed out in the draft comprehensive action plan for air pollution, which was recently prepared to meet ambient air quality standards in Delhi and adjacent states.
The official said that the proposal of using satellite imageries was discussed in at least two meetings of the EPCA and it is under consideration.
“We can take the help of satellite imagery of either ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) or NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) depending on their availability,” he said.
ISRO had earlier said that it was trying to develop a Next Generation Earth Monitoring and Observation and Aerosol Monitoring satellite in collaboration with a United States university.
“Farm fires in Punjab and Haryana aggravate the pollution levels in NCR. We would need local action plan supported by regional plans to address more dispersed pollution sources. For this, satellite imagery could be of particular help as they also reveal how pollutants are dispersed across the region by wind,” he said.
As part of the proposed actions to combat air pollution, the NCR states are expanding the real time monitoring of air quality. The satellite imagery will complement this real time monitoring as an additional tool.
“This is a draft plan and is therefore a work in progress. It has been shared with all stakeholders and there will be a meeting on this at the end of this month. After that, the plan will be submitted to the Supreme Court,” a government official said.
This new anti-pollution plan to combat Delhi’s foul air is based on a 2012 blueprint prepared by the Sheila Dikshit government along with facets of the 42-point action plan of the Union environment ministry and EPCA’s own action plan.