11 thermal plants in NCR accounted for 7% of Delhi air pollution in Oct-Jan; vehicles contributed 14%: Study

According to a new study by Council on Energy, Environment and Water (Bending Delhi’s Air Pollution Curve), 11 coal-fired power plants in the National Capital Region contributed just 7% to Delhi’s PM2.5 pollution on an average between October 2020 and January 2021, while vehicles contributed 14 %.

The study intends to support the Delhi government, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) in identifying priority areas of interventions needed in controlling air pollution in Delhi during the winter season of 2021.

“We observe that energy generation from NCR coal-fired plants was 25 and 70 per cent lower in October and November, respectively, compared to the corresponding months in 2019, implying a lower contribution in these months,” the report read.

Further, according to the report, a relatively longer stubble-burning period and unfavourable meteorological conditions were primarily responsible for Delhi’s worsening air quality in winters last year. Household heating and cooking were responsible for 40% of the pollution burden in December 2020 and January 2021.

It also said that Delhi residents were exposed to air that does not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (60 µg/m3) for more than half of 2020 despite low economic activity levels for close to eight months (March to November) due to the pandemic-induced lockdown. Delhi’s air quality in winter 2020 was worse than winter 2019 with 92 severe and very poor air quality days in the winter of 2020 compared to 80 such days in 2019.

Relative contribution from farm fires was the highest (~30 per cent) between 15 October and 15 November 2020. In the following months, the contribution from household emissions (including domestic cooking, space heating, water heating, and lighting) primarily drove poor air quality in Delhi.

“We recommend that in addition to supporting source identification studies, the government should also encourage air quality modelling and forecasting efforts. Augmenting the existing monitoring infrastructure would help air quality modellers validate their forecasts. The state government and the city administration could also work collaboratively with the modellers in developing necessary databases to track emissions from local anthropogenic sources,” the report read.

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