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Real-time Source Apportionment of Air Pollution

It is important to understand the pollutants of air in Delhi on a real-time basis in order to suggest short, medium and long-term recommendations for reducing air pollution contributions. North India in general, and Delhi in particular, struggle with concerning levels of pollutants in the air, especially during the onset of the winter season. A team from the University of Washington had attempted to set up a real-time source apportionment lab for air pollution in Delhi. Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi (DDC) worked closely with the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), and the Government of NCT of Delhi to evaluate the performance of the team.

Based on the experiences, a joint team of IIT Kanpur, TERI and IIT Delhi was recommended to take the project forward and a detailed proposal was drafted for conducting a study to find out real-time information to help identify the factors behind daily, and weekly and seasonal spikes in air pollution in Delhi. The proposal for the identification of the sources of air pollution in Delhi with the aim to guide mitigation measures was presented by a team of scientists represented by Prof. Mukesh Sharma from IIT-Kanpur to the Hon'ble Chief Minister of Delhi in February 2021. The project was approved by the Delhi Cabinet in July 2021, and an MoU was signed between all partners in October 2021.

Key Features of Real-time Source Apportionment System

The establishment of a real-time source apportionment system in Delhi would:

  • Help to understand the real-time effect of various pollution sources like vehicles, dust, biomass burning, stubble burning, and smoke emanating from factories.
  • Provide daily and weekly forecasting of air quality and Air Quality Index (AQI) at multiple locations, within and outside Delhi, and real-time diurnal source apportionment.
  • Weekly, monthly, and seasonal interpretation of air quality will take place, along with additional knowledge of PAHs, molecular markers, and secondary organic and inorganic aerosols.
  • PM10 source apportionment will be considered after the winter analysis of PM2.5 and source apportionment.

Based on the results obtained, the team will suggest short-term daily and weekly actions to systematically assess, reduce, and prevent air quality deterioration in Delhi for many years to come. This model has been tried and proven successful in developing countries and will be piloted for the first time in India in Delhi.


Current Status

A team of scientists headed by IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Delhi, The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI) and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Mohali has been charged with setting up a real-time source apportionment and pollution forecasting system in Delhi. On behalf of the Department of Environment, GNCTD, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has been authorised to act as the nodal agency for executing the project. DDC continues to assist and advise DPCC at every stage of implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the project.

The project aims to set up two systems for real-time source apportionment of air pollution in Delhi:

  1. A state-of-the-art supersite at a fixed location capable of monitoring NOx, SO2, Ozone, BTX, elemental carbon, organic carbon, and other organic compounds, where data will be collected and interpreted for necessary action.
  2. A mobile laboratory equipped with instruments will scour various areas in Delhi and provide apportionment of the sources at multiple locations.

The Delhi Government has made the first super site of the Real-Time Source Apportionment System at Government Sarvodaya Boys Sr. Secondary School, Rouse Avenue. This supersite will take up 36 square metres of space. DDC was responsible for interdepartmental coordination and communications and played a critical role in getting access to the supersite. The supersite and mobile lab for the RealTime Source Apportionment System are expected to be launched ahead of the onset of winter in 2022.

TERI has also started the groundwork for the creation of a 2022 emissions inventory which will be useful for pollution forecasting. This emissions inventory will be extremely advanced and have a fine spatial resolution of 500m x 500m (compared to the 2km x 2km resolution used by IITM for the SAFAR pollution forecasting).