Environment Thrives as Humans go under lockdown

Does a pristine environment have clues to tackle COVID-19?

Nearly three billion people are under lockdown imposed by respective countries as a result of the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus. Sparing no one that comes in its way, the virus is rampant in countries like the United States, Italy, Spain, France and many more. As the day progress, the number of infections keeps on rising.

Improvement in air quality over Spain due to lockdown

Amidst all the chaos and an air of uncertainty, it seems nature is breathing a breath of fresh air. A silver lining in the middle of the worst Pandemic after a century. There have been reports from around the world that air quality has improved significantly and wildlife is taking over vacant cities. Let’s dig in a bit more!

Air Quality around the world

Real-time Air Quality Monitoring

As Industries are no more functional in many countries especially China, India, Europe and now the US, air quality is improving day by day. The main indicator of industrial and vehicular pollution NO₂ sees a drop because of the lockdown.

Source: Visual Capitalist

Data from Italy showed a sharp drop in concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, especially in the Po Valley, the original emphasis on the country’s epidemic and in which Italy’s regulations on home-shelters were enforced for the first time. In the middle of February also a decline was observed in South Korea.

The TomTom Traffic Index provides detailed insights on road congestion levels in cities around the world.

Data from the Gps-navigation service, TomTom, show peak time traffic in New York City down from 13.5% to 26%. Not surprisingly, according to researchers at Columbia University, carbon monoxide levels in the city are half those at the same time last year. The same study suggested that these sudden drops in greenhouse gas emissions can also have negative effects on human health. 

https://youtu.be/6DWBhp-oKOI
Using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, this animation shows the concentrations of nitrogen dioxide from 20 December 2019 to 16 March 2020-using a 10-day moving average.

In a recent chain of events considering the Chinese industry, it is reported that factory shutdowns in February resulted in a 25% decrease in CO2 emissions compared to the same month in 2019.

Not just industrial areas, cities, metropolis having a lot of vehicles but our ozone layer is also healing itself it seems. Ozone layer above the Antarctica has recovered fully thanks to the efforts to control CFC (Chlorofluorocarbons) and Greenhouse gases by all the countries of the world. 

The curious case of the Ozone

Ozone can also help combat diseases like the COVID-19 Pandemic (or influenza-like diseases to be precise). In addition, the higher the temperature, the quicker the molecules of ozone break down. Humidity also matters, and ozone’s ability as a potent germicide would sharply decrease in the dry state.

If there is a correlation between the health of the ozone and the spread of Influenza-like disease then it is quite clear why the number of cases is expanding in Europe and the United States.

So here comes a bold estimation: as the seasons change and the weather becomes colder, the concentration of ozone and humidity of the air would increase significantly, and the “Hand of God” would begin to dissipate epidemics. This can be particularly true today because as the greenhouse emissions have dropped suddenly and the Ozone is healing itself, its recovery can give the much-needed respite from the Coronavirus outbreak. Though a lot of research is needed in the field we know for sure that the Ozone layer is a great disinfectant and kills viruses. 

What have we learned so far?

In no case, the decline in Greenhouse gases and recovery of Ozone in Antarctica can downplay the human loss caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic, but the efforts done globally to contain the outbreak is remarkable. The same urgency should be shown by all the countries to curb Greenhouse gases. It has been well documented that as soon as a Pandemic gets over the emissions go up really fast again if we have learned anything from the ongoing outbreak, we should work to contain the emissions as well. If we do not mend our ways in a few decades we will be looking at a bigger situation. 

The return of the fauna

Endangered wild animals today roam free as we stay back home. It’s a respite for them as well. Clean air, fewer human interventions and definitely our oceans are doing a lot better with the fleets of ships gone. 

In a piece of recent news, it was published that the extremely fragile Olive Ridley Turtles in strong numbers an upward of 7.5 lacs have returned to the beach to lay eggs. In a normal scenario, they would have been obstructed by humans during this event. But as humans are under lockdown these majestic sea creatures have nothing to fear. 

Indian Civet Cat thought is extremely rare

Another video showed the extremely endangered large Civet cat roam without any fear in the Kozhikode district of Kerala. 

Source: Venice magazine written by real Venetians. Culture, art, high craftsmanship, fashion.

In Venice, the quality of water has seen improvement, as you can see the post above from a Venice magazine located there. 

In totality, there has been a decline in emissions and certainly, the fauna has emboldened enough to roam the streets, but do we see the whole picture. There have been reports of animals in tourist places of Thailand and Japan that are starving as they are accustomed to receiving food from tourists. As people are staying back home, soon these animals have to search for a new food source. 

It’s a mixed bag right now, the Pandemic is taking its toll, the global economy has entered into a recession because of the abrupt lockdowns and the greenhouse gas emissions have gone down too. Amidst the rapid developments, the future of human beings hangs in the balance, even if we take control of the situation in the coming months, will we ever return to our normal lives in the near future?

What do you think?

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