ANNALISA DEL VECCHIO WRITES – Would it be right to describe the visibility of the Himalayas for the first time in thirty years as a good thing? Yes, in a way. The snow-covered peaks have been obscured by air pollution for decades, but the coronavirus pandemic has helped reduce pollution in several ways.
Due to the lockdown, production and business activities have slowed down, and some manufacturing companies have temporarily shut down. The manufacturing plants emit pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and other carcinogens, but the level of emissions has gradually dropped which has, in turn, reduced air pollution. Normally, in India, the air quality is highly unhealthy but now the air is safer to breathe. As some health professionals have stated, cleaner air will also help flatten the coronavirus curve since it reduces the number of individuals suffering severe symptoms. In addition, changes in air quality have decreased the number of strokes and heart attacks at emergency rooms.
Public transport (ground vehicles, airplanes) has shut down, forcing many to stay at home except to get essential goods. As a result, respiratory infections have decreased. The waterways, which were choked by pollution, are now flowing uninterruptedly.
The decline in harmful levels of nitrogen dioxide has also triggered a phenomenon that scientists call ‘The Weekend Effect’- a rise in the ozone layer due to reduced vehicular traffic. Ozone absorbs harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun, so there is likely to be a decrease in cases of skin cancer and cataracts. And with most people staying home, there is less noise pollution, which has been associated with high blood pressure, sleep disruption and stress-related illnesses.
Yes, severe pollution in India has eased as a result of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown – but at great, worldwide human cost. If only this could have happened any other way.