LIFE

Air quality improves in over 90 cities

Breathing well:NOx pollution levels have dropped by 38% in Mumbai.PTIKunal Patil

Breathing well:NOx pollution levels have dropped by 38% in Mumbai.PTIKunal Patil  

Lockdown has reduced vehicular traffic across the country, leading to a drop in PM2.5, NOx levels

With a nationwide lockdown in place, over 90 cities, including Delhi, recorded minimal air pollution in the last few days.

Welcoming the reduction in pollution, environmentalists urged the government to treat it as a “wake-up call” and stop its “obsession” with “development” at the cost of the environment.

India is currently under the biggest lockdown with around 130 crore people asked to stay home in view of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The government has urged people to avoid unnecessary travel, significantly reducing the traffic movement across the country.

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 (fine particulate pollutant) by 30% in Delhi and by 15% in Ahmedabad and Pune, respectively.

The level of Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) pollution, which can increase the risk of respiratory conditions, has also reduced. NOx pollution is mainly caused due to a high motor vehicle traffic. In Pune, NOx pollution has reduced by 43%, in Mumbai, by 38% and in Ahmedabad, by 50%.

Gufran Beig, a scientist at SAFAR, said generally in March, pollution is in the “moderate” category (Air Quality Index range: 100-200) while currently, it is in the “satisfactory” (AQI 50-100) or “good” (AQI 0-50) category. “It is the lockdown impact. Local factors like shutting down of industries and construction and traffic have contributed in improving the air quality. Rain is also helping, but the curbs on local emissions are playing a significant role,” he said.

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 data of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the air quality in the national capital is presently in the “good” category. In Kanpur, which has high pollution levels, it is in the “satisfactory” category.

Moreover, 92 other cities with CPCB monitoring centres have recorded minimal air pollution, with the air quality in the range of “good” to “satisfactory”.

As many as 39 cities have recorded “good” air quality and 51 cities have recorded “satisfactory” air quality in the last few days, the CPCB data showed.

An AQI between 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 satisfactory, 101-200 moderate, 201-300 poor, 301-400 very poor and 401-500 severe.

Environmentalists believe that the reduced pollution levels should act as a wake-up call for the government.

Jyoti Pande Lavakare, co-founder, Care for Air NGO, said the low AQI and the blue skies proved beyond doubt that a lot of the polluted air was “anthropomorphic, that is, man-made”. “Slowing down the economy to such a degree is not the ideal way to bring down air pollution, but it proves that it can be done. We can achieve the same outcome by doing this mindfully, using technology and low-emission alternatives,” she said.

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