NASA space tech shows horrific air pollution in India; here is what caused it

  • US agency NASA space tech was brought to bear on pollution in India and it revealed reasons behind increasing levels of air pollution.
By HT TECH
| Updated on Nov 28 2021, 02:29 PM IST
NASA has shared an image of how air pollution in India looks from space.
NASA has shared an image of how air pollution in India looks from space. (NASA Earth Twitter)

Several northern states in India are facing major air pollution issue. This is especially true of the the national capital New Delhi and surrounding regions. In Delhi air pollution has soared to alarming rates since the past few years because of which people are not even allowed to burst crackers during Diwali and frequent shutdown are being enforced on work and educational institutions. But what is of immense concern is is that this year air pollution in India is so bad that it is again visible from space. American space agency, NASA, has shared a horrifying picture that shows the level of air pollution in northern India. Sharing the photo, NASA Earth tweeted, "Smoke from crop fires in northern India blanketed Delhi and contributed to soaring levels of air pollution. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149086/a."

Every November, satellites detect large plumes of smoke and heightened fire activity in northwestern India as farmers burn off excess paddy straw after the rice harvest. Many farmers, particularly in the states of Punjab and Haryana, use fire as a fast, cheap way to clean up and fertilize fields before planting winter wheat crops. However, the surge of fires in the heart of the densely populated Indo-Gangetic Plain contributes to a sharp deterioration of air quality in November and December, said NASA in a report. However, crop fires are not the sole reason, there are a number of other reasons that cause the air pollution to happen, including construction activity.

It further added that while the lingering monsoon rains this year have kept fire activity at low levels for a few weeks longer than usual, satellites observed elevated fire activity in November as the pace of burning accelerated.

On November 11, 2021, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite acquired a natural-color image of a river of smoke streaming from fires in Punjab and Haryana toward Delhi. Fires in northern Pakistan likely contributed some of the smoke as well, the report added.

“Looking at the size of the plume on November 11 and the population density in this area, I would say that a conservative estimate is that at least 22 million people were affected by smoke on this one day," said Pawan Gupta, a Universities Space Research Association (USRA) scientist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

The report further informed that smoke from crop fires is not the only contributor to the hazy skies. Influxes of dust sometimes arrive from the Thar Desert to the west, an array of other human-caused sources of air pollution in cities, including motor vehicle fumes, industrial and construction activity, fireworks, and fires for heating and cooking also produces particulate matter and other pollutants.

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First Published Date: 28 Nov, 02:29 PM IST
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