Research Seminar by Prof. Mukesh Sharma, Professor of IIT Kanpur

Can we breathe clean air: a scientific view of challenges and strategy

Event Date: 
Tuesday, September 19, 2017 -

The deteriorated air quality in megacities of India has become the cause of several environmental consequences including reduction of atmospheric visibility, disruption of public life, climate change and human health implications. Hence, if we are able to reduce atmospheric levels of various pollutants in a mega city, then we’ll be successful in reducing the burden of many diseases such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory diseases including asthma; benefits will outweigh the expenses invested into the approach. To get an in-depth assessment into the fact that whether we can breathe clean air in any Indian megacity, the team of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur took up a comprehensive study on all issues of air pollution problem in the National Capital Region (NCR) including Delhi. This field-cum-laboratory study had five major components as follows: (i) assessment on current status of air quality, (ii) quantification of various constituents of a pollutant through their chemical characterization, (iii) examining qualitative and quantitative contributions of various sources to breathing level air quality, (iv) identifying possible control options and assessing their efficacies in long-term aspects, and (v) development of a time sensitive action plan to reduce breathing level concentration of the pollutant.


To achieve the above objectives, air pollution levels were measured at six different sites in Delhi having varying land-use patterns including residential, industrial, commercial, and their combinations in two distinct seasons (summer and winter) during 2013-14. The target pollutant was particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter less than or equal to 2.5 μm (PM2.5), as the ambient levels of this pollutant were observed to be 4-7 times higher than the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). The next step for working out strategies for air pollution control was to identify the polluting sources and assess their relative strengths in terms of emission quantities. The top four contributors to PM2.5 emissions were road dust (38%), vehicles (20%), domestic fuel burning (12%), and large industrial sources (11%). Emissions are function of time and space, and these can be very different from average emission quantities. Emission quantity gives idea of largeness of the sources, however, it certainly does not tell us what source(s) is causing high pollution at the breathing level.

Tuesday 19, Sep 2017
02:00 PM - 03:00 PM