How Lockdown Has Impacted Air Quality
The question of whether or not COVID-19 pandemic is a godsend to humanity can’t be resolved, but it does appear to be one for the world. Amid the coronavirus epidemic, lockout protocols were implemented by many countries that prohibited citizens from going out and caused stores and other businesses to shut down. When World Earth Day 2020 arrives, we take a look at the significant environmental effects that COVID-19 lockout has made. See also-National Doctor’s Day 2020: Remembering Medics Working Round The Clock During COVID-19 Pandemic.
A bit about World Environment Day, it was first held in 1974 and is celebrated on the 5th of June every year to promote awareness and action for environmental protection. It was intended to raise awareness of environmental issues such as air pollution, marine pollution, global warming, human overpopulation, and so on. Also Read-National Doctor’s Day 2020: The History and Importance of India’s Day.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, because of the volume of greenhouse emissions that had been released over the years, the air surrounding us was considered very dangerous to breathe into. Earth experienced rising temperatures, which in turn caused glaciers to melt and sea levels to increase. Degradation of the ecosystem was rapid due to the degradation of commodities such as food, water, and soil. But since the coronavirus lockout ended, the atmosphere has seen minor improvements. Also see Eiffel Tower in Paris Reopened to tourists after three months of shutdown due to COVID-19 pandemic.
LOW TRAFFIC POLLUTION
Just before the national lockout began on 25 March, India’s staggered shutdowns had an impact on air quality.
Throughout the first three weeks of March, the average levels of nitrogen dioxide in the cities of Mumbai, Pune, and Ahmedabad decreased by 40-50 percent compared to the same period in 2018 and 2019, said Gufran Beig, a scientist with the Air Quality and Climate Forecasting and Research System (SAFAR) under the Indian Ministry of Earth Sciences.
“Due to (the) transport sector, the reduced fossil fuel emissions and the slowdown in other emission-related activities are slowly reducing the air pollutants,” Beig said.
India’s national curfew on March 22 also resulted in the lowest reported one-day traffic congestion rate, CREA analysis said. There was also a sharp decline in other harmful contaminants, PM2.5, and the larger PM10, which are less than 10 micrometers in diameter, the study said.
“It’s most likely that only the March 22 mark will be smashed, and we’re having cleaner and cleaner days as manufacturing, transportation, and electricity supply and demand across the world are dwindling,” said Sunil Dahiya, an analyst based in New Delhi for CREA.
There is an Impact on air quality due to lockdown in emission rates that have been observed in areas of Europe and China as manufacturing and transit networks are practically ending.
But that data is no excuse to rejoice, said Dahiya.
“This is a really serious situation that the whole world is grappling with,” said Dahiya.
“Pollution is going down, but we cannot encourage the misery of too many people to be the path to clean up the environment,” Dahiya said. “We can only use the coronavirus epidemic as a learning lesson for ourselves.”
How Lockdown Has impacted Air Quality?
Data already shows that the major cities record significantly lower levels of harmful microscopic particulate matter known as PM 2.5 and nitrogen dioxide released by vehicles and power plants.
PM 2.5, which is less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, is considered especially dangerous because it can penetrate deep into the lungs and travel into other tissues and the bloodstream, posing significant health hazards.
The sharp decline in pollution and the resulting blue skies are signaling a dramatic change for India — which has 21 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities, according to the 2019 World Air Quality Survey from IQAir AirVisual.
In the capital, New Delhi, government statistics show the average PM 2.5 concentration plummeted by 71 percent over a week — dipping from 91 micrograms per cubic meter on March 20 to 26 on March 27, after the lockout began. The World Health Organization considers everything above 25 is unhealthy.
The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) gathered data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), a member of India’s Environment Ministry.
In the same period, nitrogen dioxide rose from 52 per cubic meter to 15 — also a 71 percent drop. There has also been a decline in these pollution contaminants in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Bangalore.
“For the past 10 years, I haven’t seen these blue skies in Delhi,” said Jyoti Pande Lavakare, co-founder of the Indian environmental charity Care for Air, and author of the forthcoming book “Breathing Here Is Your Fitness.”
It is a very badly needed lesson in India, say activists.
Thousands of Indians took to the streets in New Delhi in November 2019 to condemn air pollution rates, after the city was blanketed for several days in a thick yellow haze.
Air pollution has reached record high levels, causing schools to close and to divert planes. Many northern Indian cities have suffered.
The clouds now light up, four months on. Yet the effect of living in such poorly polluted areas has left people with a hidden problem: a possible susceptibility to the coronavirus pandemic — a major respiratory disease.
“(There are) very high rates of respiratory disease, even in small children, they have asthma, and the nebulizer has become common for families who can afford it in the home,” said Lavakare of Care for Air.
According to the WHO, it suggests that elderly people, including those with pre-existing medical problems, including asthma, are at greater risk of becoming critically sick with the infection.
“It is not the easiest way to minimize air pollution, but it does show that air pollution is manmade,” Lavakare said. “This gives us a great deal of motivation and confidence that we will cut down pollution.”
The coronavirus outbreak also poses an impetus for India to invest in a renewable energy future, CREA’s Dahiya said.
These images taken on the 25th of March show empty streets across India. Ghaziabad, New Delhi, Mumbai is shown in the top row, from left to right. Allahabad, Chennai, Kashmir is the middle side, from left to right. The bottom side, left to right, depicts Siliguri, Bangalore, Kolkata, and.
“India (is) a nation with high fossil fuel content,” Dahiya said. “We need to fix it to reduce waste.”
“Once we return from the crisis, it’ll be important to see how we’re spending capital in the healthier future,” he said. “We are ramping up the old fossil-fuel-based intensive sectors, or we are looking toward more viable alternatives.”
Lavakare said the government should commit itself to keep existing policy promises to a minimum.
Overall, pandemic deaths are associated with access to air pollution, with 7 million deaths per year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said. Care for Air said this should be India’s wake-up call to address the issue.