Hidden air pollutants on the rise in Indian cities

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Birmingham: Levels of air pollutants in cities in India are on the rise, according to scientists using observations from instruments on satellites that scan the global skies every day.

Researchers used a long record of data gathered by space-based instruments to estimate trends in a range of air pollutants for 2005 to 2018, timed to coincide with well-established air quality policies in the UK and rapid development in India.

The study was led by the University of Birmingham and UCL and included an international team of contributors from Belgium, India, Jamaica and the UK. The researchers published their findings in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, noting that fine particles (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), both hazardous to health, are increasing in Kanpur and Delhi.

Delhi is a fast-growing megacity and Kanpur was ranked by the WHO in 2018 as the most polluted city in the world.

This contrasts with trends in the UK cities London and Birmingham, which show modest but ongoing declines in PM2.5 and NOx, reflecting the success of policies targeting sources that emit these pollutants.