The European Space Agency’s (ESA) satellite images, released on Friday, show alarming levels of pollution in the national capital region on November 10, when air pollution levels peaked this season.
The images were captured on ESA’s Sentinel-5P satellite, the sixth for the EC Copernicus environmental monitoring programme, but the first dedicated to monitoring earth’s atmosphere, according to Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s director of earth observation programmes.
A host of factors like slow wind speed, high moisture content in the air and crop burning contributed to severe levels of air pollution in north India between November 6 and 14.
The natural factors compounded the pollution which has other sources such as thermal power plant emissions, vehicular exhaust fumes and construction dust, which ensure poor air quality across the Indo-Gangetic belt throughout winter. A second satellite image taken on the same day shows pollution from power plants was particularly severe in the belt running from north Patna in Bihar to south of Raipur in Chhattisgarh.
On December 1, air pollution in Delhi rose and returned to levels recorded immediately after the severe smog episode in November, according to the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) data. PM10 climbed to 412 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3) during the day, as high as on November 14, when Delhi had just come out of a week-long spell of emergency levels of pollution. The air quality index of CPCB for Delhi was in the ‘very poor’ category with a score of 343 in a scale of 500.