What are you smoking? Study to monitor pollutants on the ground

Experts at IIT-Kanpur are already in talks with the Central Pollution Control Board for funding the study with the Environment Protection Charge fund.

Ritam Halder | TNN
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NEW DELHI: An IIT-Kanpur source apportionment study for Delhi is being planned with real-time analysis to provide a better understanding of the sources of pollution plaguing the capital. Experts at IIT-Kanpur are already in talks with the Central Pollution Control Board for funding the study with the Environment Protection Charge fund.

Sachchidanand Tripathi, senior scientist at IIT-Kanpur, said the idea is to work on real-time monitoring of pollutants for a detailed picture of the sources affecting Delhi. “We plan to take real-time measurements using a device called an ‘aerosol mass spectrometer’. This device can give chemical analysis of every organic matter, except dust particles. Every few seconds, we will get to know what the exact composition of pollutants are,” Tripathi told TOI, adding that the study will be carried out at three locations — Rajendra Nagar, IIT-Delhi and Faridabad.

According to the last source apportionment study by IIT-Kanpur in 2015, the top four contributors to PM2.5 emissions in Delhi were road dust (38%), vehicles (20%), domestic fuel burning (12%) and industrial point sources (11%). The top four contributors to PM10 emissions were road dust (56%), concrete batching (10%), industrial point sources (10%) and vehicles (9%).

So what is the difference between the earlier study and the one proposed by IIT now?

According to Tripathi, earlier studies followed a sampling storage analysis format. Researchers collected samples in filters and bought it back to the lab for analysis. Offline chemical analysis was then carried out on these samples, collected for 8 hours or twice a day, after a couple of months.

“There are a few issues with this. When you keep the samples stored, some of it goes back into gaseous state. From filter to different instruments, losses occur. There are also actual limitations related to offline analysis in terms of complex particles. Plus how does one differentiate between solid fuel and crop residue, local source and distant sources? This proposed study will help in that,” said Tripathi.

The proposal is to conduct the study over two seasons, April-May-June and October-November-December, to study the different nature and composition of pollutants in both the seasons.

Delhi government, too, had last year approved the environment department’s proposal to conduct a round-the-year air quality study to ascertain the sources of pollution in the capital.

The project, Real-Time Source Apportionment Study for Air Pollution in Delhi, will be carried out by the department of energy, environmental & chemical engineering, University of Washington in St. Louise and will be completed at a cost of about Rs 1.2 crore within a period of 18 months.

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