People around the world are in disbelief as the world’s air quality has improved dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic.
For residents in Delhi, the capital of India, air pollution was all part of the routine. If you checked the air quality index of the city a few months ago, you would have seen that the city regularly operated in the red, meaning that every breath pollution straight into the lungs. But now, that index is green, or healthy. Usually, for Delhi, the Air Quality Index (AQI) is at a severe 200 for a good day. The World Health Organization lists anything over 25 as unsafe. During the worst times last year, the number skyrocketed over 900, or even off the measurable scale. But with the country’s 11 million cars not driving and factories pausing work, the numbers have fallen below 20.
A lockdown was put into place on March 24th across the country, causing a lot of upheaval and problems, especially for the poorer community in the country. But for Delhi, it also brought on some of the freshest air the city has seen in a long time.
It is something that being seen around the world, as more countries’ lockdowns have caused air pollution to decrease significantly. For many of the most polluting cities, like Bangkok, Beijing, São Paulo and Bogotá, the air quality has improved so much since imposing their own degrees of lockdowns and quarantine.
Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, had closed schools just last month due to air pollution, but now, are experiencing the same kind of transformation as Delhi. Though citizens lament that the public places to enjoy this improvement have been closed because of lockdowns.
For Sao Paulo, ground zero for Brazil’s outbreak, clear skies and empty streets have appeared, a stark difference from the usual high-volume traffic and smog.
“The air is certainly better,” said Daniel Guth, an urban mobility consultant for the city. “I’ve felt the improvement in air quality both as a cyclist and as a quarantined citizen. We should use this as a moment to reflect on what transport methods we should prioritise when this crisis is over.”
Many of the cities citizens have taken to open windows and balconies to enjoy this, and also to bang pots in order to protest Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly dismissed the coronavirus and its effects.
We hope that this situation can be a wake-up call for the world on the kind of impact pollution can have on places. Many experts and environmentalists are afraid that the world won’t learn from this and just go back to the way it was when it’s all over, leaving us having to fight even harder. Especially with people trying to catch up in production and industry, pollution could shoot right back up again.
A balance needs to be found and this entire pandemic needs to be proof that this planet can be hurt, and the consequences of that can affect us. We have to treat it the right way.
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