Delhi Pollution: Are We Breathing Benzene to Die? Rise in PM, Benzene, and Nitrogen Dioxide

Delhi Pollution
Delhi Pollution

Similar to every year, the coming of winter reached the topic of pollution from headlines to dinner table conversations.

From the last two decades, Grey morning light, blurry gaze, and pale tinted film that increases in the evening as traffic peaks both have become a prominent feature of Delhi’s season.

I remember a time when the color of the sky in Delhi was no longer blue. This was before we got CNG buses. Between November and February, Delhi’s skies remind me of that time,” said Rajiv Sehgal, a former government official born in the capital in 1948, who now lives in Defence Colony.

Similar to every year, the coming of winter reached the topic of pollution from headlines to dinner table conversations. As the toll was taken by particular matter, we received the result of PM as 10, 2.5, and 1 which has been the focus of measures to fight pollution, other alarming aspects such as – rise in nitrogen dioxide and benzene levels have been ignored, said, experts.

Nitrogen dioxide creates photochemical smog which it combats with sunlight which results in yellowish tinge to the city haze. The level of smog increases with the increasing traffic and the data shows that the peak of the gaseous compound coincides with peak traffic hours in the morning and evening. The fundamental source of nitrogen dioxide is combustion of petrol and diesel.

Delhi Pollution
Delhi Pollution

Over the past week, the level of benzene or carcinogen has also started increasing rapidly. With a dip in temperature, the concentration of benzene – even a short exposure to which is harmful – increases.

On October 31 at India Gate, NO2 levels in the air reached a peak of 215.8 µg/m3 — over two-and-a-half times more than the acceptable limit of 80 µg/m3. On subsequent days, peak concentration remained around twice the acceptable limit — it was the worst from 9 am-10 am and 5 pm-7 pm.

The concentration of benzene, too, was worrying. At the same station on October 31, the highest level was recorded at 11 pm at 23 µg/m3 against the acceptable limit of 5 µg/m3.

Benzene, according to a Central Pollution Control Board study started a week before Diwali in 2016, violated the set standards on three days. “Data shows that Dhanteras is the worst as traffic movement gets maximum sluggishness. There is a sharp increase in the number of vehicles plying and duration of idling increases highly, causing more emission of benzene. Among the three stations (assessed), ITO (was) the worst affected on Dhanteras. Deepawali was comparatively better and it may be attributed that vehicular emission is more responsible and bursting of crackers may not contribute to benzene emission too much,” the study said.

No extension would be given to oil marketing companies to install Vapour Recovery Systems (VRS) in fuel stations across Delhi-NCR ruled by The National Green Tribunal on Thursday. These systems are used to stem the release of volatile organic compounds (benzene, toluene, and xylene) during the transfer of fuel. All stations in Delhi-NCR will now be restricted to have the systems in place by February 1.

The authorities will bring the odd-even scheme back on the table soon. With Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority chairperson Bhure Lal last week stating that restrictions on private vehicles will also be placed, if needed.

Are we breathing benzene to die? If you have any other scheme to save Delhi from environmental issues then, share with us in the comments section below.


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