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.
The Centre had set December 7 as the deadline for old thermal power plants commissioned before January 1, 2017, to meet stricter emission norms with regard to particulate matter, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur oxides (SOx).
Recent affidavits filed by the Union environment ministry in an ongoing case in the apex green tribunal show that none of the plants are on track to meet the new norms with respect to SOx and NOx.