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Analysis finds nitrogen dioxide levels perilously high in capital

The NCAP tracker has found that at 15 out of 40 monitoring sites in Delhi, the NO2 daily average has been above 80 micrograms per cubic meter for the month of November.

Written by Esha Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: December 15, 2021 8:09:18 am
The World Health Organisation’s safety limit for NO2 is 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

A recent analysis of trends in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions across 23 states in the country has found three states — Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan — severely breaching the safety limits prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in November. The new study has been released today by NCAP Tracker, an air pollution policy tracking platform.

The CPCB has set an annual average limit of 40 micrograms per cubic meter of air for NO2 in the country. The World Health Organisation’s safety limit for NO2 is 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The NCAP tracker has found that at 15 out of 40 monitoring sites in Delhi, the NO2 daily average has been above 80 micrograms per cubic meter for the month of November and 25 out of the 40 sites experienced anywhere between 1 and 30 days when levels crossed the daily average of 80 micrograms.

The study further says that between 2013 and 2020, Delhi hasn’t experienced a single year where the NO2 annual average was within safe limits. The study notes that Delhi has taken progressive measures in its policies, including introducing CNG autos, country’s largest and busiest Metro rail network, introducing BSVI fuel from 2018 and scrapping vehicles older than 15 years. Despite these measures, the city has been unable to keep its NO2 levels within permissible limits. Even during the lockdown in 2020 with little or no vehicular and industrial emissions, which are two major contributors to NO2, while NO2 levels were significantly reduced, it still exceeded the CPCB limit.

Delhi’s annual NO2 average for 2020 remained at 61 ug/m3. It was 73.66 in 2018 and 71 in 2019. NO2 is an irritant gas, which at high concentrations causes inflammation of the airways. It is central to the formation of particulate matter and ground-level ozone, both of which are associated with adverse health effects. High levels are also harmful to vegetation. The study has further said the pollution of both particulate matter and NO2 increases in winter in India, due to favourable meteorological conditions.

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