Environmental Impacts of Lockdown

The 2019 pandemic novel coronavirus was first confirmed in India on 30 January 2020, in the state of Kerala. A total of 4778 confirmed cases, 382 recoveries and 136 deaths in the country have been reported as of 6 April 2020. The world's governments are adopting different levels of interventions including travel restrictions and lockdown to contain the spread of the highly contagious virus. The lockdown was first imposed on January 23, 2020 in the city of Wuhan in China where the first case of this deadly virus was reported and later followed by other countries. From March 25, 2020, India, the second-most populous country in the world with 1.3 billion people, went into lockdown which mean restricting movement of people and shutting down business and industrial establishments and closing of all factories, markets, shops, and places of worship, most public transport suspended and construction work halted, as India asks its citizens to stay home and practice social distancing.

The Global Economy and Social life has badly affected by this pandemic range from $2.0 to 4.1 trillion, equivalent to a loss of between 2.3% and 4.8% of global gross domestic product (ADB 2020). But despite the severe impacts there are reports that lockdown has temporarily improved environmental conditions around the world.

Source: National Air Quality Index, SAFAR

The lockdown improved the air quality of the 103 cities in India — the most polluted  country in the world which has 21 out of the 30 world’s most polluted cities. Air pollution is the single largest environmental health risk in the world causes seven million people die prematurely every year globally as a result of exposure to air pollution, more than 91% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality exceeds the World Health Organization’s guidelines (WHO 2020).

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. 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

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, sources from the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) under India's Ministry of Earth Sciences.

Source: https://edition.cnn.com and https://www.space.com

On April 21, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also released an image, according to which its satellite sensors observed aerosol levels at a 20-year low for this time of year in northern India after just a week of reduced human activities. According to a data tracker developed by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, India’s electricity consumption has fallen by 18.72% (till April 3) due to the lockdown. Similarly, as per the data compiled by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), there has been a clear reduction of consumption of petroleum products and coal by industries in regions within and around cities. Consumption of diesel decreased by 24% in March 2020 compared to March 2019, with most of the fall post the lockdown. Overall consumption of petroleum products in India decreased by 18% during the same period.

High levels of aerosols have been a major factor in unhealthy, high levels of air pollution throughout India, especially in urban areas which is drastic decrease due to less movement of vehicles.The people of Jalandhar could see the majestic snow-capped Dhauladhar mountain range of Himachal Pradesh, 250 km away, for the first time in 30 years. Not only that the snowy Himalayan peaks of the revered Gangotri glacier over 200 km away and Kanchenjunga peak also emerged from Siliguri with AQI level 50.

The cleaner River Ganga sighting with fishes have emerged from Uttar Pradesh's Kanpur as well as Varanasi. The clear water is a result of the shutdown of most industries. River Yamuna has also started to appear clearer in southeast Delhi's Kalindi Kunj, the heavy amount of toxic foam that is usually seen around the year still continues. The toxic foam is caused due to a mix of sewage, detergents and chemicals from industrial waste.

This lockdown will facilitate enhanced free movement of animals never seen before like dolphins near Mumbai shores, Elephant strolling through Dehradun, deer on Ooty Coimbatore road, leopard sauntered into the city of Chandigarh and peacocks and other birds found from various locations in urban areas.


Source: Environmental Impacts of Lockdown