The thread of life is weaved of opposites. Amidst the harrowing COVID19 tales of lockdown, economic crises, mortality etc., there shines a bright sun due to environmental healing. Yes, the earth and the atmosphere are curing itself due to global reduction in economic activity.
THE SKY TURNS BLUE
Covid-19 has enforced working-from-home habits that limit commuting through air, road and water. This has restricted the long-term air emissions in the current global emergency. The month of May has recorded lowest levels of pollutants in the air since the 2008 financial crisis. Following March 22, India saw a significant dip in air pollution levels. Cities like Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Lucknow saw their average Air Quality Index (AQI) staying within two digits.
As far as global effect is concerned, China and Northern Italy have also recorded significant reductions in their nitrogen dioxide levels. There has been a 25% drop in the energy utilization and emissions in China which will decrease its annual carbon emissions by 1%.
COVID-19 has boosted wildlife conservation awareness. It has raised alarms on poaching proliferation. Considering the fact that healthy animals living in healthy ecosystems are robust enough to resist diseases, by minimizing climate change and protecting habitats, we may be able to avoid future pandemics. This has been the mind changer for people and has diverted them to conserve wildlife.
Lockdown has shut schools and non-essential businesses. Minimal activity from industrial sites, factories and construction sectors has minimized the harmful toxins. A view of Dhauladhar mountain range from Jalandhar, Punjab; which is 213 Kms from Jalandhar is a rare feat we achieved due to lockdown. In Delhi, where flights divert frequently due to smog, the air pollution levels have dropped 71% in just one week. On March 20, the air had unhealthy 91 micrograms/cubic meter. On March 27 that level fell to 26 micrograms/ cubic meter.
Travel bans have similarly restricted international flights. Aviation emissions which accounted for 2.4% of global CO2 emissions in 2018, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) — have dropped significantly. Even NASA satellites from outer-space show significant reductions in air pollutants.
TURNAROUND OF TOXINS
The toxic carbon emissions saw the greatest fall in India in last 40 years. It is the largest ever annual fall of CO2 emissions in 2020. Water bodies have also been clearing and the rivers Yamuna and Ganga have seen significant improvement since reduced industrial water pollution. According to the real-time water monitoring data of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the average water quality of 27 points of the Ganga seen in recent days, is apt for bathing and fisheries.
The CO2 emissions fell by 30 million tons in FY 2019-20 compared to the previous fiscal.
Thus, Novel Coronavirus has indeed brought a silver lining to the environment. We as citizens should ensure our social responsibility that once the nation takes a grip over the Virus, the man-made activities should not prove detrimental to the environment.
Written by Radhika Kothari