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Decrease In Air Pollution In India During Lockdown Not As High As Thought: Study

During the Covid lockdown, the air looked much cleaner, but that allowed more sunshine to get through, creating conditions for ozone (O3), a pollutant, to increase in the atmosphere

Decrease In Air Pollution In India During Lockdown Not As High As Thought: Study
The study recommends that for building policies related to air pollution, the impact of emissions, meteorology and chemistry of air and pollutants should be considered
Highlights
  • Lockdown in India reduced major urban sources of air pollution: Study
  • Air pollution poses risk to people health: Researchers
  • Cities in India also have some of the highest O3 levels in the world: Study

Ontario: According to a study by the York University, blue skies and an absence of visible smog can be deceiving and hide pollutants that could potentially cause health issues. The research has been published in the ‘Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts Journal’. Air pollution results from a complex mix of interactions between emissions, meteorology, such as wind direction and rain, as well as chemistry, but looking only at observational data as many recent studies have done without take meteorology into account, skews the numbers.

Also Read: Phase Down From Coal As Main Source Of Energy, Invest More In Renewables: ICMR And Lancet Report

The researchers found that some air pollutants didn’t drop nearly as much as first thought and even more surprising was that ozone levels increased even as other pollutants decreased. The air looked much cleaner, but that allowed more sunshine to get through, creating conditions for ozone (O3) to increase up to 30 per cent.

To accurately quantify the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on air pollutant levels, meteorology and atmospheric chemistry needs to be considered in addition to emissions. Our research shows the decline in local emissions had less influence on the decrease in air pollutants than first thought, said York University postdoctoral researcher Leigh Crilley, who led the Faculty of Science research along with York Associate Professor Cora Young and team.

As the national lockdown in India reduced major urban sources of air pollution, such as traffic, industry and construction, it gave the researchers an opportunity to study the contribution of local sources of air pollutants during normal meteorological conditions.

To get a clearer picture of potential decreases in air pollution, Mr Crilley and Ms Young focused their study on nitrogen oxides (NOx), fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and O3, as well as what was happening meteorologically at multiple locations within two cities in India — Delhi and Hyderabad — during the start of the first lockdown, from March 24 to April 24, 2020.

Air pollution is a known health risk and India has some of the worst air pollution globally resulting in a disproportionally high level of mortality and disease. It is estimated that air pollution exposure, particularly PM2.5, resulted in the death of 1.27 million people in 2017.

Also Read: COP26 Aims To Banish Coal. Asia Is Building Coal-Fired Plants To Burn It

Cities in India also have some of the highest O3 levels in the world, which can be formed from a complexity of sources and chemistry, either NOx-limited or volatile organic compounds (VOC)-limited.

The researchers used hourly data from air quality monitoring stations for levels of PM2.5, NOx and O3, and hourly meteorological and visibility data. They compared that data to the same dates from the previous three years to evaluate changes due to the lockdown. A boosted regression tree model was built to account for the influence of meteorology on observed levels.

When only taking observational data into account, NOx and PM2.5 fell by up to 57 per cent and 75 per cent respectively, but when meteorology was factored in, those percentages fell to less than eight per cent for PM2.5 and between five and 30 per cent in both cities, while O3 increased.

They found that local sources of emissions, such as vehicles and the burning of fuels, had less influence on air pollution levels than regional emissions sources, while weather events and atmospheric chemical processes contributed independently to air pollutant levels.

We demonstrate that regional sources, such as rural and agriculturally based emissions, that may have been less affected by the lockdown, have a significant influence on PM2.5 levels in Delhi and Hyderabad after weather-normalization. This indicates that future PM2.5 mitigation strategies should focus on national-scale, as well as local sources. Overall, this study highlights the impact of emissions, meteorology and chemistry on air pollution and that all three should be considered when assessing the effects of any short-term intervention on air pollutants, said Ms Young.

In addition, the research team found that ozone production in Delhi is likely VOC-limited and, as such, attempts to mitigate it should focus on dominant VOC sources.

The researchers said that this really pointed to the need regulators to understand the complex factors involved in air pollution if they are going to make policies to reduce pollutants and ozone.

Also Read: Recap 2021: Health, Hygiene And Sanitation In Focus In The Second Year Of The Covid-19 Pandemic

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity,  that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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