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World India's coronavirus lockdown is having a dramatic impact on pollution

07:25  01 april  2020
07:25  01 april  2020 Source:   cnn.com

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Air pollution in India has plummeted to its lowest levels amid the coronavirus lockdown , in stark contrast to record high levels last year. The significantly reduced traffic on the roads across India is having a profound impact on the nation' s air quality. A woman seen here in New Delhi wearing a

It seems the lockdown had an unintended benefit -- blue skies. Pollution in China falls during coronavirus outbreak. "As a measure that took place effectively overnight, this is more dramatic than anything else that I've seen in terms of the impact on emissions," said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead

When India imposed a nationwide lockdown a week ago, it was designed to stop the imminent spread of the novel coronavirus.

But grinding this country of 1.3 billion people to a near halt has also provided a temporary remedy to another pressing health issue: suffocating pollution levels.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered a lockdown of India ’ s 1.3 billion citizens to fight the spread of coronavirus , urging people to distance He and his brothers have been unable to go to the dump regularly since the lockdown was announced because if they are caught by the police, they will be

India ' s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has imposed a nationwide lockdown in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus . There have been 519 confirmed cases across India and 10 reported deaths. India - which has a population of 1.3bn - joins a growing list of countries that have imposed

The world's largest lockdown means all factories, markets, shops, and places of worship are now closed, most public transport suspended and construction work halted, as India asks its citizens to stay home and practice social distancing. So far, India has more than 1,300 confirmed cases of Covid-19, including 35 deaths.

Already, data shows that the main cities are recording much lower levels of harmful microscopic particulate matter known as PM 2.5, and of nitrogen dioxide, which is released by vehicles and power plants.

PM 2.5, which is smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, is considered particularly dangerous as it can lodge deep into the lungs and pass into other organs and the bloodstream, causing serious health risks.

The sudden fall in pollutants and the subsequent blue skies signal a dramatic shift for India -- which has 21 of the world's 30 most polluted cities, according to the IQAir AirVisual's 2019 World Air Quality Report.

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India has imposed a strict lockdown on its 1.3bn population after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases there. Italy - severely hit by the epidemic - began a major lockdown The coronavirus pandemic has also had a major impact on the sporting calendar, as countries have sought to limit mass gatherings.

The lockdown has meant drastically lower emissions from cars and factories. China' s lockdown in order to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus has had one unexpected side-effect — a Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA, said, "This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off

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In the capital, New Delhi, government data shows the average concentration of PM 2.5 plunged by 71% in the space of a week -- falling from 91 microgram per cubic meter on March 20, to 26 on March 27, after the lockdown began. The World Health Organization considers anything above 25 to be unsafe.

The data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), part of India's Environment Ministry, was collated by the Centre for Research on Clean Air and Energy (CREA).

Nitrogen dioxide went from 52 per cubic meter to 15 in the same period -- also a 71% fall. Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore have also recorded a fall in these air pollutants.

"I have not seen such blue skies in Delhi for the past 10 years," said Jyoti Pande Lavakare, the co-founder of Indian environmental organization Care for Air, and author of upcoming book "Breathing Here is Injurious To Your Health."

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On 24 March, the government of India under prime minister Narendra Modi ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days, limiting movement of the entire 1.3 billion population of India as a preventive

NASA just released satellite images showing the impact Coronavirus has had on dramatically reducing pollution throughout China. India ' s Richest. Since the outbreak has led to reduced travel and shut down factories, the levels of NO2 have significantly decreased over China. NASA scientists note that this is the most dramatic drop in pollution over a short time period across a county they

"It is a silver lining in terms of this awful crisis that we can step outside and breathe."

Lowest traffic pollution

Even before the national lockdown started on March 25, the phased shutdowns in India were having an impact.

During the first three weeks of March, the average nitrogen dioxide levels declined by 40-50% in the cities of Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad, compared with the same period in 2018 and 2019, said Gufran Beig, a scientist with the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) under India's Ministry of Earth Sciences.

"The reduced fossil fuel emissions due to (the) transport sector and slowdown in other emissions-related activity is slowly reducing the air pollutants," Beig said.

The nationwide curfew in India on March 22 also resulted in the lowest one-day traffic pollution levels on record, analysis from CREA said. Other dangerous pollutants, PM2.5 and the larger PM10, which are less than 10 micrometers in diameter, also dropped steeply, the report added.

"It is most likely that even the record of March 22 will be broken, and we are seeing more and more cleaner days as industries, transportation and energy generation and demand are reducing across the country," said Sunil Dahia, an analyst based in New Delhi for CREA.

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Similar patterns showing drastic falls in pollution levels were seen in parts of Europe and China since their lockdowns, as industry and transport networks grind to a virtual halt.

But this data is no reason to celebrate, Dahia said.

"This is a really grave situation which the entire world is grappling with," Dahia said.

"Pollution is going down, but we cannot let the suffering of so many human beings be the way to clean the air," Dahia said."We can only use the outbreak of coronavirus as a learning lesson for us."

Pollution protest

It's a lesson that is badly needed in India, activists say.

In November 2019, hundreds of Indians took to the streets in New Delhi to protest the levels of air pollution, after the city was blanketed in a dark yellow haze for several days.

Air pollution hit record high levels, forcing schools to close and flights to be diverted. Other cities in northern India also suffered.

Four months later, the skies are now clearing up. But the impact of living in such badly polluted conditions has left a hidden problem for residents: a potential vulnerability to the coronavirus pandemic -- a severe respiratory disease.

India has one of the highest rates of respiratory disease in the world, and the world's highest number of tuberculosis cases. Such widespread lung damage could potentially increase the risks associated with the coronavirus.

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"(There are) very high levels of respiratory disease, even among young children, they have asthma, the nebulizer has become a normal thing to have in the house for families who can afford them," said Lavakare from Care for Air.

According to the WHO, older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions, including asthma, appear to be a higher risk of becoming severely ill with the virus.

Investing in a cleaner future

Globally, deaths related to exposure to air pollution are of pandemic proportions, with 7 million deaths every year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

Care for Air said this should be a wake-up call for India to address the problem.

"Obviously, this is not the most ideal way to bring down air pollution, but it does prove that air pollution is manmade," Lavakare said. "It gives a lot of encouragement and hope that we can bring pollution down."

The coronavirus crisis also presents India with an opportunity to invest in a clean energy future, said Dahia from CREA.

"India (is) a highly fossil-fueled country," said Dahia. "In order to tackle pollution, we need to tackle that."

"When we come out of the outbreak, it will be interesting to see if we invest money in the cleaner future," he added. "(Do) we ramp up the old fossil fuel based intensive industries, or we go towards more sustainable options."

Lavakare said that at the minimum, the government should commit to keeping existing policy pledges.

"Governments cannot use this disruption as an excuse to go back against the gains that have been made," she said. "Right now, we have a priority, we need to stop this big crisis.

"But when things are under better control ... we need to move towards renewable energy faster. It would be really sad (if) we make the same mistake again, using coal and non-renewable energy."

Los Angeles has notoriously polluted air. But right now it has some of the cleanest of any major city .
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