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European satellite captures alarming pollution over north India

A host of factors like slow wind speed, high moisture content in the air and crop burning contributed to severe levels of air pollution in north India between November 6 and 14.

india Updated: Dec 03, 2017 16:36 IST
Malavika Vyawahare
Malavika Vyawahare
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
European Space Agency,Sentinel-5P satellite,India Pollution
Commuters wait for transport amid a thick blanket of smog on the outskirts of New Delhi. (AP File Photo)

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) satellite images, released on Friday, show alarming levels of pollution in the national capital region on November 10, when air pollution levels peaked this season.

The images were captured on ESA’s Sentinel-5P satellite, the sixth for the EC Copernicus environmental monitoring programme, but the first dedicated to monitoring earth’s atmosphere, according to Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s director of earth observation programmes.

Air pollution over Delhi captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission on November 10, 2017. (Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2017), processed by KNMI/European Space Agency)

A host of factors like slow wind speed, high moisture content in the air and crop burning contributed to severe levels of air pollution in north India between November 6 and 14.

The natural factors compounded the pollution which has other sources such as thermal power plant emissions, vehicular exhaust fumes and construction dust, which ensure poor air quality across the Indo-Gangetic belt throughout winter.

A second satellite image taken on the same day shows pollution from power plants was particularly severe in the belt running from north Patna in Bihar to south of Raipur in Chhattisgarh.

The worst of the air pollution from power plants runs from the north of Patna in Bihar to Raipur in Chhattisgarh, show pictures captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission on November 10, 2017. (Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2017), processed by KNMI/European Space Agency)

The Centre had set December 7 as the deadline for old thermal power plants commissioned before January 1, 2017, to meet stricter emission norms with regard to particulate matter, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur oxides (SOx).

Recent affidavits filed by the Union environment ministry in an ongoing case in the apex green tribunal show that none of the plants are on track to meet the new norms with respect to SOx and NOx.

The deadlines set by the Central Electricity Authority in consultation with thermal power plants owners will result in the required equipment being installed to meet SOx standards starting 2020.

An environment ministry official told HT that the ministry was working with the industry to bring about more aggressive time frames to meet the new standards.

On December 1, air pollution in Delhi rose and returned to levels recorded immediately after the severe smog episode in November, according to the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) data. PM10 climbed to 412 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3) during the day, as high as on November 14, when Delhi had just come out of a week-long spell of emergency levels of pollution. The air quality index of CPCB for Delhi was in the ‘very poor’ category with a score of 343 in a scale of 500.

First Published: Dec 03, 2017 07:45 IST