India witnessed worst levels of human-induced air pollution during 2018-2021: Study

Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune and Chennai recorded huge fluctuations in terms of air pollution

By Zumbish
Published: Friday 19 May 2023
Representative photo: iStock.
Representative photo: iStock. Representative photo: iStock.

During 2018-2021, India witnessed the maximum levels of human-induced air pollution, noted a new study.

This period, traversing the three phases of the COVID-19 pandemic (pre, during and post), saw a surge in air pollution owing to the development of transportation, industrial power plants, green space dynamics and unplanned urbanisation in the country, noted the study.

The research titled Machine learning-based country-level annual air pollutants exploration using Sentinel-5P and Google Earth Engine was published in journal Nature on May 17, 2023.

Anthropogenic actions are the foremost reason for climatic conditions and atmospheric changes, and India is the country most affected by such activities, it added. In terms of rural air pollution, “agricultural waste burning is also the main reason,” it added.

Also read: Pollution control boards aren’t underfunded but investing their surplus into fixed deposits: Report

Researchers Bijay Halder, Iman Ahmadianfar, Salim Heddam, Zainab Haider Mussa and Leonardo Goliath carried out machine learning‑based country‑level annual air pollution monitoring using Sentinel‑5P satellite and Google Earth Engine (GEE). Sentinel-5P monitored the atmospheric air pollutants and chemical conditions from 2018 to 2021. And the cloud computing-based GEE platform was used to analyse air pollutants and chemical components in the atmosphere.

The years 2020 and 2021 saw drastic changes in Air Quality Index (AQI), whereas 2018 and 2019 saw low AQI throughout the year. Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune and Chennai recorded huge fluctuations in terms of air pollution during the study period.

Source: Study.

High levels of nitrogen dioxide were observed in seven AQI monitoring stations of Kolkata: 102 in 2018, 48 in 2019, 26 in 2020 and 98 in 2021. Delhi also recorded high NO2 variations; 99 in 2018, 49 in 2019, 37 in 2020), and 107 in 2021.

In India, anthropogenic activities and human health-related problems are increasing gradually. This triggers health issues and pollution-related diseases like asthma, respiratory disease, lung cancer, as well as skin-related diseases, the researchers noted. The primary pollutants of concern are NO2, carbon monoxide, ozone, sulphur dioxide and methane.

Also read: This winter was the cleanest in NCR since 2018, finds CSE; Delhi air most toxic

Air pollution and extreme climatic conditions are mutually connected. Sunlight is affected by air pollutants like methane, ozone and aerosols. The high voltage electric discharge has altered oxygen to ozone. And the subsequent depletion of the ozone layer increased the penetration of ultraviolet rays. Similarly, climate change also influences air quality and pollutants, noted the study.

Awareness and planning are much needed for protecting our environment, indicated the research. Proper planning, management and development strategies can help protect the environment. Otherwise, climate change and air pollution will increase health emergencies, ecological diversity and environmental degradation, the study warned.

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