Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 24, Issue 32, pp 25179–25189 | Cite as

Characterization of PM2.5 in Delhi: role and impact of secondary aerosol, burning of biomass, and municipal solid waste and crustal matter

  • Pavan K. Nagar
  • Dhirendra Singh
  • Mukesh Sharma
  • Anil Kumar
  • Viney P. Aneja
  • Mohan P. George
  • Nigam Agarwal
  • Sheo P. Shukla
Research Article


Delhi is one among the highly air polluted cities in the world. Absence of causal relationship between emitting sources of PM2.5 and their impact has resulted in inadequate actions. This research combines a set of innovative and state-of-the-art analytical techniques to establish relative predominance of PM2.5 sources. Air quality sampling at six sites in summer and winter for 40 days (at each site) showed alarmingly high PM2.5 concentrations (340 ± 135 μg/m3). The collected PM2.5 was subjected to chemical speciation including ions, metals, organic and elemental carbons which followed application of chemical mass balance technique for source apportionment. The source apportionment results showed that secondary aerosols, biomass burning (BMB), vehicles, fugitive dust, coal and fly ash, and municipal solid waste burning were the important sources. It was observed that secondary aerosol and crustal matter accounted for over 50% of mass. The PM2.5 levels were not solely result of emissions from Delhi; it is a larger regional problem caused by contiguous urban agglomerations. It was argued that emission reduction of precursors of secondary aerosol, SO2, NOx, and volatile organic compounds, which are unabated, is essential. A substantial reduction in BMB and suspension of crustal dust is equally important to ensure compliance with air quality standards.


PM2.5 Source apportionment Biomass burning MSW burning Secondary aerosols 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCTD) and Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), Delhi, for their financial support.

Supplementary material

11356_2017_171_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.3 mb)
ESM 1 Further information on Time series of air quality index (AQI) for the period of October 1, 2016 to December 3, 2016 at different locations in Delhi (Fig. S1), monthly aerosol optical depth of aerosol for period of September 2013 to June 2014 captured by the NASA’s Terra/MODIS satellite (Fig. S2), PM2.5 Emission load of different sources in Delhi (Fig. S3), Pattern of PM2.5 in City of Delhi during 2013–2014 (Fig. S4), Fractional contributions of each source during winter (W) and summer (S) PM2.5 levels observed at different sites (Fig. S5) and Back trajectories taken from online HYSPLIT model for period of November 03–21, 2013 at 28.53 N, 77.28 E (Fig. S6). (DOCX 2305 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil Engineering, Center for Environmental Science and EngineeringIndian Institute of Technology KanpurKanpurIndia
  2. 2.Department of EnvironmentGovernment of National Capital Territory of DelhiNew DelhiIndia
  3. 3.Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric SciencesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  4. 4.Delhi Pollution Control CommitteeGovernment of National Capital Territory of DelhiNew DelhiIndia
  5. 5.Department of Civil EngineeringInstitute of Engineering & TechnologyLucknowIndia

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