Khushi Gupta Sunday, 3 May 2020

Lockdown for Good?

Khushi Gupta
Sunday, 3 May 2020

Lockdown for Good?

Imagine if trees gave off Wifi signals, we would be planting so many trees and we'd probably save the planet too. Too bad they only produce the oxygen we breathe.Sooner or later, we will have to recognize that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans. And in this current health crisis, this may prove to be apt. In the situation of lockdown, all the possible circumstances are getting a turnover.

The environmental changes wrought by the coronavirus were first visible from space. Then, as the disease and the lockdown spread, they could be sensed in the sky above our heads, the air in our lungs and even the ground beneath our feet.India's unprecedented nationwide lockdown to battle covid - 19 has also opened up an unexpected opportunity - a chance for residents to open up their lungs and breathe in the cleanest air in about many years.with millions of vehicles that spew dust and harmful emissions off the roads, and factories shut for more than a month, air pollution levels have plunged. Supply chains have faltered; for the first time in history, the Indian railways stopped operations around the country. This is unprecedented – and an opportunity for us to take a closer look at how air pollution levels have responded to this situation and what we can learn for the future.

March is the start of spring season in India – when most cities, especially in the north, experience good air quality.This spring, thanks to the lockdown, the skies are blue and the air quality index is in code green in most parts of the country. However, it is still no time to step out and enjoy the fresh air. Specifically, the lockdown is an opportunity to understand the extent of air quality changes in various sectors. Cities have very little traffic or commercial and industrial movement. Cooking energy use has also dropped a bit due to interstate mass migrations of workers. There is no doubt that these lockdowns are hitting the fossil fuel industry. With fewer drivers on the roads and planes in the air, the price of oil has slumped almost two-thirds since last year. This is potentially good news for the climate because oil is the biggest source of the carbon emissions that are heating the planet and disrupting weather systems. Some analysts believe it could mark the start of a prolonged downward trend in emissions and the beginning of the end for oil. Others strike a more cautious note about the fuel that has dominated our lives and polluted our atmosphere for the past century.

In Delhi, air quality index (AQI) levels are usually a severe 200 on a good day (anything above 25 is deemed unsafe by the World Health Organization). During peak pollution periods last year they soared well into a life-threatening 900 and sometimes off the measurable scale. But as Delhi’s 11m registered cars were taken off the roads and factories and construction were ground to a halt, AQI levels have regularly fallen below 20. The skies are suddenly a rare, piercing blue. Even the birdsong seems louder.It is not just Delhi experiencing the clearest skies in years. As pollution dropped to its lowest level in three decades this week this week, residents of Jalandhar in Punjab woke up to an incredible sight in the distance: the Dhauladhar mountain range in Himachal Pradesh. The Ganges have been cleaner, several animals have appeared in the cities also, birds that have become rare like peacock have started coming out. India’s river stretches passing through major industrial towns have also recorded visual improvement. “Though the untreated sewage is still finding its way into the rivers, the toxic industrial effluents have declined and the results are evident in some stretches. It is a golden opportunity for us to monitor these changes for an informed action in future.”said Manoj Mishra, Convenor of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, NGO that works on the revival of Yamuna.

For the first time, we are maximizing the potential of digital platforms in our workplaces, which have immediately cut down the need to travel. Going forward, can we bring changes in our lifestyles? Can we institutionalize some of these solutions? Perhaps, the government could push for cleaner pathways, when it provides stimulus to the economy post-pandemic and ensures adequate environmental safeguards. The challenge now is to design the programmes in such a way that a green deal is made possible. The earth is giving us a chance to redeem ourselves for our activities. I think this must be taken seriously and we must respond to the call of our nature.