Sulphur Dioxide Current Affairs - 2019
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As per study published by researchers at University of Maryland, US, India is overtaking China to become world’s largest emitter of anthropogenic Sulphur Dioxide (SO2).
SO2 is an air pollutant that causes acid rain, haze and many health-related problems. It is produced predominantly during burning of coal to generate electricity and vehicular emissions.
Key Highlights of study
Researchers had combined emissions data generated by using two different methods in order to generate an accurate profile of emissions over India and China. The first method is based on collection of estimated emission amounts from inventories of number of factories, power plants, automobiles and other contributors to SO2 emissions. The second method is based on data obtained from Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite, which detects a variety of atmospheric pollutants including sulphur dioxide.
India’s emissions of SO2 has increased by 50% since 2007 India opened its largest coal-fired power plant in 2012 and has yet to implement emission controls, while China’s fell by 75%. The rapid decrease of emissions in China far exceeds expectations and projections. It can be attributed to emission control measures undertaken by China. While, India is yet to implement emission control measures.
China and India are world’s top consumers of coal, which typically contains up to 3% sulphur. The SO2 emissions are generally product of coal-fired power plants and coal-burning factories. Beijing, China’s capital suffers severe haze problems due to coal-burning factories and power plants.
India’s increased SO2 emissions are not causing as health or haze problems as in China because largest emission sources are not in most densely populated area of India. However, with growing demand for electricity in India, impact may worsen.
NASA scientists using a new satellite-based method have located 39 unreported and major human-made sources of toxic sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions that cause pollution.
The unreported emission sources were found in the analysis of satellite data from 2005 to 2014. These sources are clusters of coal-burning power plants, oil and gas operations and smelters notably found in West Asia, Mexico and parts of Russia.
SO2 is a known health hazard and cause of acid rain. Currently, SO2 monitoring activities include the use of emission inventories that are derived from ground-based measurements and factors, such as fuel usage.
- The satellite-based estimates of the emissions were 2 or 3 times higher than those reported from known sources in these regions.
- The unreported and under-reported sources account for about 12% of all human-made emissions of SO2. This discrepancy can have a large impact on regional air quality.
- Researchers using a new satellite also have located 75 natural sources of SO2 in the form of non-erupting volcanoes that are slowly leaking the toxic gas.
- The satellite-based data is the first to provide regular annual information on these volcanic emissions as they are located remote locations and not monitored.