Several northern Indian states are experiencing severe air pollution. This is notably true in New Delhi, the national capital, and the neighboring areas. In recent years, air pollution in Delhi has risen to frightening levels, to the point where people are not even allowed to light crackers during Diwali, and work and educational institutions are frequently shut down. However, what is of great concern is that India’s air pollution is so awful this year that it can now be seen from space. NASA, the American space agency, has released a graphic depicting the extent of air pollution in northern India.
NASA Earth tweeted the photo, saying, “Smoke from crop fires in northern India blanketed Delhi and contributed to soaring levels of air pollution. Also, read https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149086/a.”
Satellites detect enormous plumes of Smoke and increased fire activity in northwestern India every November as farmers burn off surplus paddy straw after harvesting rice. Many farmers, especially in Punjab and Haryana, use fire as a quick and inexpensive way to clean up and fertilize fields before planting winter wheat harvests. However, according to NASA, a spike of fires in the heavily populated Indo-Gangetic Plain contributes to a substantial decrease in air quality in November and December. Crop fires, however, are not the only cause of air pollution; there are various other factors at play, including construction activity.
While the prolonged monsoon rains kept fire activity at low levels for a few weeks longer than typical, satellites noticed increased fire activity in November as the rate of burning intensified, according to the report.
On November 11, 2021, the Suomi NPP satellite’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) captured a natural-color image of a river of Smoke rushing toward Delhi from flames in Punjab and Haryana. According to the report, some of the Smoke was likely caused by fires in northern Pakistan.
According to Pawan Gupta, a Universities Space Research Association (USRA) scientist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, “looking at the size of the plume on November 11 and the population density in this area, I would say that a conservative estimate is that at least 22 million people were affected by smoke on this one day.”
The study says that crop fire smoke isn’t the main cause of the foggy skies. Many additional human-caused causes of air pollution in cities, including motor vehicle exhaust, industrial and construction activity, pyrotechnics, and fires for heating and cooking, also produce particulate matter and other pollutants.