Satellite data collected shows that India is home to three of the world’s largest nitrogen dioxide pollution hotspots, says a Greenpeace report.
“Unprecedentedly detailed satellite data generated by the European Space Agency’s new satellite and analyzed by Greenpeace reveals the location of the globe’s worst NO2 emissions sources,” says the report.
Nitrogen dioxide is produced from burning fuel at high temperature. Fuel sources like coal, oil, gas, and biomass all contribute to NO2 emissions, it explains.
The Greenpeace report adds that coal-run power plants in India are one of the largest sources of nitrogen oxide and dioxide air pollutants. Capital New Delhi is a particularly major source of this pollution that stems from power plants, manufacturing, and transport.
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The report specifically identifies the Dadri National Capital Power Plant that produces plume smoke with considerable levels of nitrogen dioxide, which gets blown into Delhi, Ghaziabad, Noida, and Gurugram.
Other major sources of nitrogen oxide and dioxide pollution in India are Sonbhadra, the second-largest district in Uttar Pradesh, and Singrauli, a district in Madhya Pradesh. Even Talcher city and Angul district, coal and industrial hubs in Odisha, are high emitters.
The Greenpeace report explains that nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide are dangerous air pollutants that cause respiratory diseases, lung damage, and other chronic ailments.
What has the Greenpeace report analysed?
Since 2018, the European Space Agency Sentinel 5P satellite has been providing Greenpeace with data on NO2 levels in the atmosphere. The report explains that the satellite passes over every place on Earth daily at noon, local time. The data was collected over three months—from June to August—and measured the entire troposphere for emissions.
According to Greenpeace, power plants in India, South Africa, China, and Germany are some of the largest emitters of nitrogen oxide and dioxide. The report also identifies 14 major cities, including Santiago de Chile, Tehran, Dubai, London, Paris, Congo, Angola, Seoul, Jakarta, and New Delhi, as high emitters of nitrogen air pollutants.
Greenpeace says that around 12 coal-run power plants in Mpumalanga, South Africa, are the single largest source of nitrogen oxide and dioxide pollution.
China has the most number of hotspots of such emissions in the world followed by the Middle East and European regions, India, US, and DR Congo.
“Long-term exposure to NO2 is associated with increased mortality rates worldwide. In the European Union, exposure to NO2 is linked to an estimated 75,000 premature deaths per year. In China, there is growing scientific evidence that indicates significant increases in respiratory and cardiovascular mortality as a result of exposure to NO2,” says Greenpeace.
The report adds that nitrogen oxide and dioxide pollution produces atmospheric particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) and ozone, both of which are massive public health concerns.
Why this matters
Low-income, developing countries have long argued that richer and more advanced economies need to shoulder most of the financial costs associated with green technology and provide updated, cleaner machinery and equipment to developing countries at an affordable rate.
Environmentalists have also said that while individual efforts to reduce pollution and waste, like minimalist lifestyles, bamboo toothbrushes, and metal straws, are appreciated, they are not enough. Activists have called to their governments to regulate and penalise large corporations that engage in poor waste management practices and are also urging the public to unlearn consumerist behaviour and promote sustainable businesses.
Maharashtra is a recent example of this kind of a grass-roots push for sustainability as thousands of residents in Mumbai have protested development projects, like the coastal road and BMC zoo and metro car shed in Aarey Colony, over concerns of large-scale deforestation, habitat destruction, species loss, and displacement of indigenous communities.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius.