Space4SDG13: Climate Action

Published by- Joy Agrawal on 16/07/2021

Our extensive development has led to ever increasing levels of pollution. Pollution is actually like cancer. Something that is slowly consuming the Earth and after a certain point is a point of no return. We need to stop our Earth from heading towards the point of no return which is actually just around the corner. They say everything is destined to happen was this pandemic destined, because this year of 2020 definitely saw a positive change in terms of pollution. Was this destined for our Earth to reclaim its climate and nature? But with relaxations around the world, pollution soaring high yet again. This pandemic has shown that climate is extremely dynamic such a short lived reduction in pollution enhanced the quality by astronomical levels during the initial phase. We can protest as much we want but the climate won’t improve by protesting instead what’s needed is action and proper education to people around the globe. Now we have reached a point where only reducing won’t do it because the underlying pollution will still deteriorate the overall environment. Now reduction along with removal is required.

Space technology bring a lot more options for agencies in play to take action now. Space technology can help measure pollution and also help find underlying causes for this through comparison of different data. For instance in a city like Mumbai has lesser industries but more population and hence more mobility. The main reason for pollution there is heavy mobility which can easily be tracked from space and plotted against the pollution. This can help us definitively identifying the regions where pollutions is maximum and why. Whereas a city with heavy industries is likely to have water pollution and air pollution. It can help us in identifying emissions from industries, for instance physical air quality monitors can be doctored but not satellite data quantifying the pollution. It can help track deforestation on lands allotted for forest industries to monitor that over-deforestation doesn’t take place.

Space technology can also help in gauging the changing population of our natural wildlife. The wildlife population that changes affects the ecological balance which can over a long period of time affect the climate. This is all possible only if we cut back, regrow and methodise for cleaner energy sources. Satellite imagery also helped identify the largest ice berg breaking off from Antarctica.

Below is a case study in which satellite imagery played an elemental role to quantise and present the below data.

This is a case study of the varying air traffic and the pollution over Dharavi slum the largest one in Asia.

Mumbai Airport


COVID-19 Cases graph

Air Traffic Data

  • Air traffic decreased by more than 80% in April 2020 when compared with the previous month due to air travel restrictions and traveler hesitancy.

  • Air traffic rebounded in the next month, although not to previous levels, owing to repatriation efforts of the government under the Vande Bharat mission.

  • Domestic flight travel was resumed in May 2020 which caused an increase in air travel.

  • The upward trend continued till May 2021 when air travel took a dip again due to restrictions following the 2nd nationwide COVID-19 wave in India.

  • In conclusion, almost all of these dips and rises in air traffic can be directly attributed to the rise of COVID-19 cases and government restrictions.

Dharavi due to its proximity to the Mumbai International Airport and its central location in the city experiences high levels of air pollution. Since exposure to high levels of air pollution adversely impacts respiratory health, it increases COVID-19 risk. For example, a study conducted in the United States showed that asthma and cardiac problems are more likely to affect people who live within 6 miles of an airport. Although pollution levels from the airport have decreased during the pandemic due to flight restrictions, it is likely that long-term exposure to such high levels of pollution has already helped develop respiratory diseases in a significant percentage of the population. A number of other risk factors such as unsanitary conditions, malnourishment, and high population density have further increased Dharavi’s COVID-19 risk leading to the lethal outbreak of COVID-19 in May 2020 which took the lives of hundreds of people.

Space technology can be extremely useful in providing real time analysis of pollution data and causes of it. It can provide pollution series analysis. All in all, space technology can massively contribute here.

Note: Case study was prepared by Joy Agrawal & Sai Charan Petchetti for the EO Dashboard Hackathon.