Post lockdown results in increasing levels of Air pollution

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Mehab Qureshi

Pune, August 16, 2020: Amid the Coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic, a stringent nationwide lockdown was imposed in India from March 24 and ended on May 3, 2020. This resulted in the restriction of people’s movement, which led to a decrease in pollution levels in cities across the country.

However, the post lockdown phase witnessed a spike in the Air Quality Index(AQI) as the restrictions were eased, the usage of vehicles, and emissions from industries increased.

According to a study conducted by a researcher, Tamanna Sengupta, There is a definite increase in AQI across the country. Interestingly, Delhi has increased marginally compared to Mumbai and Kolkata with a more than 50% jump. This can be an effect of rains in Delhi, allowing air particulate to settle down.

AQI is evaluated based on various air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide particulate matter (PM), etc. The primary concerning particulate matter is with a diameter of 2.5 to 10, and these are minute particles that cannot be filtered by the body.

The AQI measures like a thermometer that runs from 0 to 500 degrees. If the AQI is between 0-50, the air in that place is considered good, while 51-100 is deemed satisfactory and breathable. However, if the range varies from 201-300, it causes breathing discomforts and permanent health issues.

Another interesting observation in the report said that Bangalore had been documented this year to have much better Air Quality than 2019. It is interesting to note that the sharp drop in AQI in Mumbai during lockdown can be attributed mainly to the reduction in local anthropogenic emissions – could be the reason for the rise in August.

“AQI has degraded after the removal of lockdown. It is a good opportunity for experts and policymakers to assess and develop recovery plans that cap the air pollution level,especially in major cities. One way to do this is the alternate numbered vehicle system used in Delhi (promote a limited number of cars on the road). Certain studies also hint at enforced personal vehicle restrictions every few months to curb anthropogenic emissions”, said Tamanna while speaking to Punekar News.