A new research by NASA and the University of Maryland concluded that India might soon become the largest emitter of sulphur dioxide in the world. Although, both India and China remain the World’s largest consumer of coal, the study shows that China’s sulphur dioxide emission has decreased by 75% since 2007, but India’s emission has increased by almost 50%.
Sulphur dioxide pollution causes haze and acid rain and lowers the quality of air. It has severe health consequences such as corneal haze, breathing trouble, sneezing, eye irritation and cardiac arrest.
How was the study conducted?
The study was conducted using two different methods in both China and India from the year 2007-2016. The conventional approach was to calculate the number of vehicles plying, number of power plants, factories and other emitters of sulphur including coal that contains three percent of sulphur. This data, although important are often outdated.
The other way that they gathered data was that they used Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite to monitor pollutants in the air including sulphur. Although this updates information instantly and would never lag behind, it usually cannot detect small emitters. Hence, by using both OMI and the conventional method the study reached its conclusion.
Findings in India and China
India remains one of the largest consumers of coal in the world. The problem arises because of the coal-burning factories and coal-powered power plants.
In the study, it was seen that sulphur emission increased in places such as Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. All these states are associated with coal-fired power plants.
The increase in emission can also be attributed to the fact that India opened its largest coal-fired power plant in 2012 and are yet to implement precautionary measures.
China, on the other hand, even though remains one of the major consumers of coal implemented policies to curb emission. They started fining polluters, setting emission reduction goals and lowering emissions limits. China’s air quality still remains poor, sulphur emission has drastically lowered.
How to better the situation?
The study comes at a time when the national capital has been engulfed in heavy smog bringing the air quality below the safe level. According to World Health Organisation standards, pollution in Delhi and its neighbouring cities have been 30 times more than permitted. Better handling of the situation and implementing precautionary measures like China might help in better the air quality.