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Biodiversity & Environment

Covid-19 Lockdown & Improved Air Quality

  • 30 Mar 2020
  • 4 min read

Why in News

The nationwide lockdown, to prevent COVID-19, has led to minimal air pollution in over 90 cities including Delhi.

  • Environmentalists have welcomed the reduction in pollution and have urged the government to treat it as a wake-up call and stop the development at the cost of the environment.

Key Points

  • During the lockdown, the government has asked the people to avoid unnecessary travel which has significantly reduced the traffic movement.
  • Other factors which have contributed to the improved air quality are shutting down of industries and construction sites and rains.
  • According to the centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the measures against COVID-19 have led to a drop in:
    • PM2.5
      • It is an atmospheric Particulate Matter of diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres, which is around 3% of the diameter of a human hair.
      • It causes respiratory problems and also reduces visibility. It is an endocrine disruptor that can affect insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity thus contributing to diabetes.
    • Nitrogen Oxide (NOx)
      • NOx pollution is mainly caused due to a high motor vehicle traffic and can increase the risk of respiratory conditions.
  • Generally in March, pollution is in the moderate category in the Air Quality Index while currently, it is in the satisfactory or good category.
    • Under the good category, pollution is considered to be at the lowest and the air is believed to be the healthiest to breathe.
  • According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data:
    • Air quality in the National Capital Territory of Delhi is presently in the good category.
    • Kanpur, which has high pollution levels normally, is in the satisfactory category.
    • 92 other cities with CPCB monitoring centres have recorded minimal air pollution, with the air quality ranging between good and satisfactory.

  • Observations and Suggestions:
    • The low AQI and the blue skies prove that air pollution was mostly anthropomorphic (man-made), which can be reduced by conscious efforts.
    • Reducing air pollution by rapidly slowing down the economy is not an ideal way so mindful use of technologies and low-emission alternatives can be opted to minimise the pollution.
    • It was also emphasised that air pollution weakens the lungs so countries like India with higher pollution and lower nutrition levels will be more affected by COVID-19 leading to higher morbidity and deaths.

Air Quality Index

  • The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality.
  • It focuses on health effects one might experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air.
  • AQI is calculated for eight major air pollutants:
    • Ground-level ozone
      • It is also found in the stratosphere and protects from ultraviolet (UV) rays, while in the troposphere (ground level) it acts as a pollutant.
      • It is not a primary pollutant but a secondary one.
      • Ground-level ozone is not emitted directly into the air but is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight.
    • PM10
    • PM2.5
    • Carbon monoxide
    • Sulfur dioxide
    • Nitrogen dioxide
    • Ammonia
    • Lead
  • Ground-level ozone and airborne particles are the two pollutants that pose the greatest threat to human health in India.

Source: TH

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