Delhiites breathe in five times more SO2 than a decade ago

The national capital faces challenges on toxicity and vehicular pollution, highlights the Economic Survey

By Isha Bajpai
Published: Thursday 22 March 2018

The level of poisonous gases found in Delhi's air are way past the standards. ben dalton/FlickrThe concentration of toxic gases present in Delhi’s air has increased manifold in the past decade, says Economic Survey of Delhi 2017-18. In fact, the air the residents of the national capital breathe now has five times more sulphur dioxide in it than a decade ago.

In 2008, the amount of SO2 found in the air was 5 μg/m3 (microgram per cubic meter), but in 2017 this number touched 23.36 μg/m3. And that’s not it. The air also has much more nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. The NO2 level in in 2008 was 43.1 μg/m3, which increased to 73.55 μg/m3 last year. The level particulate matter (PM10) jumped from 201 μg/m3 in 2008 to 263 μg/m3 in 2017.

These are way past the standards: NO2 at 40 μg/m3 and PM10 at 60 μg/m3. Moreover, the survey shows that air in Delhi’s Anand Vihar had the highest level of NO2 (88.59 μg/m3) and PM10 (410 μg/m3) in 2017 and residents of RK Puram were exposed to the highest level of SO2 (30.25 μg/m3).

Vehicular pollution

The survey also notes that the number of vehicles registered in Delhi has increased from around 31,64,000 in 1999-2000 to 1,03,83,000 in 2016-17. This is a precarious spike, especially when a recent study by IIT Kanpur on Delhi’s pollution levels revealed that emissions from vehicles are the second largest source of particulate matter, especially PM2.5 in Delhi. In winter, vehicles contribute 25 per cent to PM2.5 concentration in air, with diesel vehicles contributing a large share to both PM10 and PM2.5 levels.

Sadly enough, Delhi is not the only city in clutches of air pollution. According to the data released by the Central Pollution Control Board on November 7, 2017, at least six other cities have seen air quality reaching way beyond the ‘severe’ category. These cities are Noida, Ghaziabad, Moradabad, Bhiwai, Howrah and Faridabad.

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