Coronavirus positive: Air pollution in India down 50 percent during lockdown

Paris/New Delhi, Apr 24 (efe-epa).- Air pollution in the India’s New Delhi and Mumbai, among the world’s most contaminated cities, has come down remarkably, during a month-long anti-coronavirus lockdown, according to data released by the European Space Agency on Friday.

The space agency said the concentration of nitrogen dioxide, one of the main pollutants in air, has dropped 40-50 percent in the two biggest cities of India.

The ESA published images captured by the Sentinel-5P satellite after releasing evidence of similar effects of lockdowns on air pollution in recent weeks, first in China and later in some urban areas of Europe.

The satellite – part of Europe’s Copernicus program – was able to measure much reduced nitrogen dioxide levels in Mumbai and New Delhi compared to the same period last year.

The agency noted similar trends in other parts of the country that has been under a strict lockdown to reduce physical contact between its 1.3 billion people to the minimum since Mar. 25.

India’s Central Pollution Control Board also reported a 56 percent reduction in the hazardous levels in New Delhi between Mar. 25 and Apr. 15, attributing the drop mainly to “restrictions on vehicular activity.”

“As a result of combination of reduced vehicles on the road, functioning of only essential commercial units and prevailing weather conditions, significant reduction in PM2.5, PM10 (small air particles that contribute to pollution) and NO2 levels were observed,” the CPCB said in a report earlier this week.

Claus Zehner, ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, noted that high values of nitrogen oxide concentrations remained over northeast India, home to some coal-based power plants.

The Vindhyachal Super Thermal Power Station, the largest in India, has shown a reduction of just 15 percent compared to last year.

The ESA statement cited reports of India’s electricity consumption dropping by 9.2 percent in March.

However, the maritime routes in the Indian Ocean continued to display trails of NO2 emissions comparable to last year, evidence that the sea cargo traffic has remained largely unaffected by restrictions.

The emissions of the polluting gas, responsible for aggravating respiratory problems, mainly originate in power stations, industrial plants and combustion-engine vehicles.

According o the World Health Organization, air pollution kills an estimated seven million people every year across the world.

As pr the World Air Quality Report from IQAir, six of the world’s ten most-polluted cities are in India, with capital New Delhi shown to be the most polluted worldwide due to fumes from heavy traffic, industry and burning of fossil fuels apart from other factors.

“In this case, we can clearly see the decreased concentrations (of NO2) are due to human activity,” said Zehner.

India’s nationwide lockdown is set to continue at least until May. 3, with more than 23,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 700 deaths reported so far. EFE-EPA


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