On March 24, India issued an order to blockade the world’s largest scale, affecting the entire country with 1.3 billion population.
The purpose of the initial blockade was to prevent the disaster from the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, which overwhelmed many countries with a much better health. So far, India has confirmed more than 3,000 cases of SARS-CoV-2 corona virus, and 86 deaths.
While the implementation of the dispute also causes many controversies about human rights and economic impacts on the poor, but surprisingly, it also provides a temporary solution to the problem that has clung to the Indian people throughout. for decades. It is air pollution.
Blockade, which means that the entire population will be forced to implement “social distancing” – not to go out if it’s not an emergency. All factories, markets, shops and temples must be closed. Public transport stopped, construction site stalled. The data then showed that many large Indian cities have recorded PM 2.5 fine dust concentration (dust is smaller than 2.5 micrometers) and NO2 has dropped sharply.
It is known that PM 2.5 is considered a dangerous pollutant, with the ability to penetrate deep into dust, accumulate in organs, enter the bloodstream and cause scary diseases. But for the first time in ten years, the people of the country have come to 21 cities in the top 30 most polluted places in the world (2019 figures from the World Air Quality Organization WAQ) know the sky. green is really like.
In New Delhi, the observational data of the Center for Clean Energy and Energy Studies showed PM 2.5 dust concentration decreased by 71% after just one week – from 91 micrograms / m3 of gas on March 20 to 26 on March 27. For comparison, the World Health Organization WHO prescribed concentrations above 25 were considered “unsafe”.
NO2 – one of the emissions from vehicles and industrial plants – decreased by 71%. The cities of Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore also recorded strong improvements in air quality.
“I haven’t seen the blue sky in Delhi for the past 10 years,” – quoted Jyoti Pande Lavakare, co-founder of Care for Air – the environmental organization of India. “It’s a rare bright spot in this crisis. At least we can go out and breathe safely.”
Traffic emissions are record low, but that’s not a good thing
Before the blockade order was issued on March 25, the periods of suspension of domestic activities in India also caused certain effects.
Gufran Beig, an expert at SAFAR (Air Quality Research and Weather Forecast System, operated by the Indian Ministry of Science), said that during the first three weeks of March, the concentration of NO2 in the air had decreased. 40-50% in cities of Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad compared to the same period of 2018 and 2019.
“Reducing emissions from fossil fuels has gradually reduced environmental pollution,” – Beig said.
India on November 13, 2019 (left), and March 30 (right)
With a policy to suspend operations, on March 22, India witnessed a record low emissions from vehicles – according to CREA’s analysis. Other pollutants such as PM2.5 fine dust and PM10 fine dust are also significantly reduced.
“It is very likely that the record on March 22 will be broken, when we see the environment become cleaner and later as the industry and transportation decline. Even consumer demand will decrease.” , ” – quoted Sunil Dahiya, analyst of CREA in New Delhi.
In fact, the trend of pollution reduction also occurs in countries that enforce a wide blockade, such as China and European countries. However, according to Dahiya, this is not good news either.
“This is a difficult situation the whole world faces. Pollution does decrease, but we cannot trade it with the suffering of so many people,” – Dahiya commented.
“We can only use this blockade as a lesson for the future.”
For India, this is an expensive but necessary lesson at this time.
In November 2019, hundreds of people poured onto the streets of New Delhi, holding a protest march after witnessing the city skies covered in golden brown smoke for days. At that time, New Delhi’s air pollution was so high that schools had to close, the aviation stalled, and affected many other cities in northern India.
4 months later, the blockade order due to the pandemic Covid-19 helped the sky become more clear. However, having to live together for so long in pollution has left a potential disaster for Indians when Covid-19 – a respiratory disease appeared.
India has one of the highest rates of respiratory disease in the world, and ranks first in the number of people with tuberculosis. Meanwhile, according to WHO, the people most at risk of the Covid-19 pandemic are elderly people, and people with a history of respiratory illnesses such as asthma.
“The incidence of respiratory disease is very high, even for young people. They have chronic asthma, so much so that nebulizers become such a normal item for families who can afford it, “ – quoting Lavakare.
Invest for the future
Globally, the number of deaths from air pollution each year is comparable to that of a pandemic – up to 7 million according to WHO data. Lavakare judged that what happened during the blockade days was a wake-up call to India, to understand where the problem lies.
“Obviously, this is not the right thing to do to reduce emissions, but it is evidence that air pollution is a human product,” – Lavakare said. “It will create a great incentive, showing what we have to do to reduce pollution.”
Dahiya said that the crisis called corona virus could be considered as an opportunity for India, considering to invest in clean energy in the future.
Photos of cities in India on March 25 – after the blockade order was issued
“India is a country that relies heavily on fossil fuels,” – Dahiya said. “To address pollution, we must aim for that.”
“When the epidemic ends, it will be interesting to see how much we will invest in a cleaner future,” – he added. “Whether we will continue to return to the old course of industry based entirely on fossil fuels, or towards a more sustainable option for the future.”