Amid Covid-19 lockdown, Delhi breathes cleaner air as PM2.5 drops to 35

Updated on Apr 21, 2020 01:48 PM IST

As per an analysis by experts at the nonprofit Center for Science and Environment, days after the coronavirus lockdown was put into force on March 25 in India, the level of particle pollution dropped by nearly 60% in New Delhi.

The India Gate war memorial is pictured after air pollution level started to drop during nationwide coronavirus lockdown.(REUTERS)
The India Gate war memorial is pictured after air pollution level started to drop during nationwide coronavirus lockdown.(REUTERS)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

Amid the coronavirus lockdown, countries across the globe have reported a significant drop in air pollution and witnessed improved air quality. 

According to the World Air Quality Index, countries like the United States, Spain, Italy, China, France, Mexico and the UK have reported a drop in the level of NO2 levels in April as compared to the same period last year. The most significant improvement in air quality was seen in New Delhi. 

Amid the lockdown, India’s national capital reported a drop in its NO2 levels. Nitrogen dioxide or NO2 is a gas emitted by motor vehicles and factories mostly and therefore, a drop in its level was indicative of reduced human activity outside the home amid the coronavirus lockdown.

As per an analysis by experts at the nonprofit Center for Science and Environment, days after the coronavirus lockdown was put into force on March 25 in India, the level of particle pollution dropped by nearly 60% in New Delhi.

According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), the air quality in the national capital on Tuesday (April 21) was recorded in the ‘satisfactory’ category with PM10 at 68 and PM2.5 at 35. The overall Air Quality Index in the national capital hovered around 68, as mentioned on the SAFAR website on Tuesday. This is a sharp drop in air pollution for the national capital which usually records ‘poor’ to ‘sever’ level of air quality with the AQI ranging between 100 to 300 and even higher in colder months.

It is even predicted the air quality may touch “good” level in the national capital.

“The overall Delhi AQI is the satisfactory category on 21st April morning as forecasted. The SAFAR model suggests AQI likely to improve further towards the lower end of the satisfactory category (may just touch good category) for 22nd April,” the website mentioned.

Just a couple of months back in February, the pollution level in the national capital was deteriorating. The overall air quality in the first week of February stood in the “very poor” category with the Air Quality Index (AQI) docking at around 300, SAFAR has reported.

But experts worry the clean air and unsullied skies are not here to stay once the lockdown is lifted. Selected business and economic activities resumed across the country on April 20. While the Delhi administration decided to provide no relaxation in lockdown restrictions in the national capital, some neighbouring states lifted few curbs.

Experts fear that a return to the pre-lockdown situation, where factories resume operations and vehicles jam the roads again, pollution levels will rise again.

“Currently, we have clean air due to the lockdown but this respite is short term. After the restrictions are lifted and human activities start, there will be a sudden rise in air pollution,” TK Joshi, member, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) task force on air pollution and health told HT’s business publication Mint.  

PM10 and PM2.5 are particles (particulate matter) present in the air that are classified as pollutants and can harm human health. PM10 is particulate matter 10 micrometres or less in diameter while PM2.5 is particulate matter 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter.

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