Close your eyes and imagine the view outside your bedroom window, from your front porch, balcony, or rooftop. Now, imagine what you would feel if one day you went to look at that view and a mountain range had suddenly appeared in the background.
A massive drop in air pollution thanks to shutdowns due to COVID-19, this is essentially what has happened in India. (1)
A peak at the Himalayas
For the first time in 30 years, people living in Jalandhar, a city in the northern Punjab region of India, can see the Himalayan mountains from their homes. For many people living here, this is the first time they’ve ever seen this section, called the Dhauladhar Mountain Range, in their lives. They are visible for more than 100 miles away. This gorgeous view was made possible by a severe decrease in air pollution after India went into a mandatory lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19. (1)
Many people living in the city are posting pictures of the range on their social media, referencing how long it had been since they could see the mountains, if ever.
“For the first time in almost 30 years (I) could clearly see the Himalayas due to India’s lockdown clearing air pollution. Just amazing,” Manjit Kang wrote. (1)
The cleanest air in India in decades
India’s Central Pollution Control Board did an analysis of the air pollution in 85 cities across the country just before the March 22 lockdown and then again a few days in. On average between March 16 and 24 the cities had an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 115. They began seeing improvements after the first day of the lockdown, and by three days in the AQI dropped to 75. (2)
Cities all across India are getting a much-needed breath of fresh air. The capital, New Delhi, saw a decrease in PM10 air pollution levels by 44%. The PM10 standard is a measure of airborne particulates that are 10 micrometers or smaller in diameter. These tiny pollutants are inhaled deep into the lungs where they can then be absorbed into the bloodstream and carried to other important organs throughout the body. (1, 2, 3)
The country is currently on a lockdown that has shut down nearly all stores, businesses, factories, and construction, and has essentially banned people from leaving their homes. (1)
A new hope
While there is no doubt that the novel coronavirus has been a terrible tragedy, the environmental benefits seen across the globe have proven that, if given the chance, the earth’s pollution levels can change quickly. From the clear skies in India, China, and Los Angeles to the clearer waters in the canals of Venice, it is clear that the human race must take this moment of pause to be a turning point in our history. If coming out of this global lockdown we put mother nature first, we will be able to continue to enjoy mountain views, the returning wildlife, and save the lives of the millions of people who will no longer have to breathe in polluted air.
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