IIT Delhi studying pollution at Delhi Metro stations
Are you breathing polluted air in the underground Metro? This is precisely what the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi is trying to find out. Are the tens and thousands of commuters inhaling polluted air and what impact will this have on their health?

The IIT’s civil engineering department and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) have undertaken the study to find out the levels of pollutants in the air at the Patel Chowk and Chandni Chowk stations. The IIT will also formulate an indoor air quality monitoring protocol – the minimum air quality limits – for Delhi Metro stations and precautionary measures to be taken.

Metros across the world have such standards and the moment the pollution level crosses the minimum limit, automatic measures come into effect to neutralise the rising level.

“Through the study we want to know the level of pollution at underground Delhi metro stations,” Mukesh Khare, the IIT professor heading the project, told .

“Every day, hundreds of thousands of people commute by the Metro and sometimes all of us must have felt nauseating and suffocating while standing at a station or inside a train. A drop in oxygen levels and poor air circulation are among the main reasons for this,” Khare pointed out.

An IIT team has placed air monitoring instruments at the two stations and data is being collected at different time periods – peak and non-peak hours.

"We will collect the data of the quality of air at two stations for a year. At underground stations air is circulated by the air conditioning system but most of the time, its periodic maintenance is not done, which adds to the problem," said Khare.

"The air-conditioning system takes air from outside and circulates it inside. The air in Delhi is very polluted and it is for sure that the air circulated is also polluted," he added.The final results of the study will be available only in 2015 as analysis of data will take about two years.

However, if anything alarming or significant emerges during the study period, this will be looked into, a DMRC official said.Khare said that former DMRC chairman E. Sreedharan had shown interest in initiating the project but it was commissioned by present chief Mangu Singh.

About the basis of selecting the stations for the study, the professor said they were looking for those with high and low footfalls.This led them to select Patel Chowk, which sees a low turn-out, and Chandni Chowk, which leads to the walled city market and attracts shoppers and tourists.

"Chandni Chowk has very high footfalls and many businessmen also travel on this route while Patel Chowk gets fewer footfalls," Khare said.He said through the study people will get to know about the air they inhale at underground and its impact on their health.At present 43 km of the 193-km system is underground.

The study is important as with the completion of Phase-III in 2016, DMRC would cover almost 70 percent of Delhi. This line will be a combination of elevated (95 km) and underground (45 km) tracks.

"The study will help in assessing the pollution levels at Metro stations and the precautionary measures to be taken," a Delhi Metro official said.Delhi Metro makes over 2,700 trips a day and ferries around 1.8 million passengers on weekdays.