23rd November 2020
Air pollutants before lockdown vs. after (Source: The Wire)
Thanks to the pandemic that has controlled the world since March, the whole world came to a standstill, with most countries going under lockdown, leaving the streets empty and the hustle and chaotic lives at bay. Several restrictions were placed on humanity due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The sudden and prolonged period of quarantine put a halt to all international commercial activities around the world. It affected various environmental parameters which are directly connected to human health.
As suddenly we're unable to operate all the types of social, economic, industrial and urbanisation activity normally, nature took advantage of the situation and showed improvement in the quality of air, cleaner rivers, less noise pollution, undisturbed and calm wildlife.
A research conducted for the US’s National Institutes of Health points out that "although the coronavirus vaccine is not available, the coronavirus itself is the earth's vaccine and us humans are the virus.”
The pandemic exhibited extraordinary results which have not been seen in decades- there is clear water in the Venice canal, blue skies over New Delhi, the capital city of India, and flourishing fauna in many parts of the world. Carbon emissions have fallen by 25 per cent; there is 40 per cent less domestic air traffic, 50 per cent decrease in Carbon Dioxide in New York, and a Puma was seen in the region of Santiago, Chile, after years. The pandemic also contributed towards a 40 per cent increase in broadband demand, as all the critical discussions and meetings over the globe were being carried out on online platforms. The lockdown also has shown a 30 per cent increase in online gaming activity.
Before COVID-19, the entire world was suffering from high levels of urban air pollution, mainly in the form of Carbon Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide and particulate matter. The positive effect of lockdown was to decrease the Carbon Dioxide emission to -17 per cent by 7 April 2020, with respect to the mean level of emission in 2019. According to a study, the Air Quality Index (AQI) decreased by 44 per cent, 33 per cent, 29 per cent, 15 per cent and 32 per cent in the northern, southern, eastern, central and western parts of India respectively. The same study also shows that between 16 March to 14 April 2020, 22 cities of India show the reduction of particulate material by 43, 31, 10 and 18 per cent.
Road and air transport came to a halt as people were not allowed to travel. According to a report by CNN, air travel dropped by 96 per cent due to Covid, which is the lowest in 75 years. Not only transport, the manufacturing sector was also heavily affected- Global oil demand declined drastically, and prices fell sharply. This resulted in less energy consumption and lower oil demand.
So, we can conclude that if we destroy our planet, then mother-nature will try to bounce back. We should also understand the climate change the world can anticipate after the pandemic ends. There is a chance that environmental pollution will be back with more pace. Human efforts now towards saving the environment can have a lasting effect.
(Sources: Venn Gage, Science Direct, The Wire, BBC)
Edited by: Suditi Jha