Thursday, 2 July 2020

COVID-19 - A BOON FOR ENVIRONMENT

Worldwide lockdown due to COVID-19 has shutdown the industrial activities globally. Among many other sectors, transport is the most adversely affected sector due to lockdown. Road and air transport were halted due to the enforcement of lockdown. According to the reports, air travel dropped by 96% due to COVID-19, lowest in 75years. Furthermore, not only the transport sector but also the industrial and manufacturing sector is heavily affected by the pandemic. COVID-19 has a severe negative impact on human health and world economy; however, it also results in pollution reduction due to limited socio-economic and industrial activities. Environmental pollution is reduced up to 30% and this fall coincides with the imposition of a countrywide quarantine, travel restrictions, and the shutting down of power stations and industries.

Currently, most countries have tried to fight the spread of the virus with massive COVID-19 screening tests and establishing public policies of social distancing. It is clear that priority revolves around people's health. For this reason, the indirect impact of the virus on the environment has been little analyzed. The first studies estimated a positive indirect impact on the environment. On one hand, climate experts predict that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could drop to proportions never before seen since World War II (Global Carbon Project, 2020). This outcome is mainly due to the social distancing policies adopted by the governments following the appearance of the pandemic.

The American space agency, NASA, is funding four projects that will aid researchers by using satellite imagery and other data resources to correlate the impact of pandemic-related lockdowns to global pollution levels.

1. One such project looks to study the perceived gains in air quality in different countries by linking satellite data to multiple data sets like weather, traffic-related information, and temperature.
2. A similar project will combine meteorological data with satellite imagery to study the extent to which air pollution has reduced in the upper reaches of the atmosphere.
3. A third related project will look into the effect of lower air pollution on the quality of water, 4. While a fourth such initiative will employ light pollution satellite data to study the socio-economic impact and
efficacy of shelter-in-place orders that have been issued in most countries across the world. The worldwide disruption caused by the COVID- 19 pandemics has resulted in numerous impacts on the
environment and the climate. The severe decline in planned travel has caused many regions to experience a drop in air pollution. In China, lockdowns and other measures resulted in a 25 percent reduction in carbon emissions and 50per cent reduction in nitrogen oxides emissions, which one Earth systems scientist estimated may have saved at least 77,000 lives over two months



However, the outbreak has also provided cover for illegal activities such as deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and poaching in Africa, hindered environmental diplomacy efforts, and created economic fallout that some predict will slow investment in green energy technologies. Up to 2020, increases in the number of greenhouse gases produced since the beginning of the industrialization era caused average global temperatures on the Earth to rise, causing effects including the melting of glaciers and rising sea levels.

Impact of COVID-19 lockdown on environment Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the air around us had been deemed very toxic to breathe in due to the number of greenhouse gases that had been emitted over the centuries. The Earth faced rising temperatures, which in turn led to the melting of glaciers and rising of sea levels. Environmental degradation was happening fast due to the depletion of resources such as air, water and soil. But after the coronavirus lockdown commenced, there have been slight changes in the environment.

Improved Air Quality

Nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused industrial activity to shut down and cancelled flights and other journeys, slashing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution around the world. NOx pollution is mainly caused due to high motor vehicle traffic, the major source of NO2emissions that has reduced during the lockdown. The Centre for Research on Energy and CleanAir reported that methods to contain the spread of coronaviruses, such as quarantines and travel ban resulted in a 25 per cent reduction of carbon emission in China. In the first month of lockdowns, China produced approximately200 million fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide than the same period in 2019, due to the reduction in air traffic, oil refining, and coal consumption.



Journal by Dr.Yashoda Tammineni,
MSc, Ph.D.
HSE,HOD at NIFS

Teja Dakuri and Sistla Sailesh