Nature has its own dimensions and ups and downs are ever going phenomenon. You go few degrees up, shatter what is in the earth, on the earth and above the earth, what you call environment, but almighty forces are ultimately in run and what went up will be back to square one.
By Prof Dr Abdullah G Arijo
Few years back, it was a town talk as to what will happen if natural resources of planet earth will shrink to zero level and humans will have to leave the planet or manage material from other plants to be able to have better survival. Mission to moon brough negative message as there is neither oxygen nor water, two essential commodities for life to exist. Then question develops as to who shall be successful to run a shuttle service from other planets to earth to fulfil human needs as is basic level.
Our ancestors passed on to us a pollution-free planet, but in the last 500 years, the biosphere (earth) is so much polluted. Its natural resources including oxygen and water are becoming scarce which is why there are attempts to migrate to other plants, subject to the life-supporting sources available. The growth of industries has resulted in the mass production of goods which are available to the consumer at much cheaper rates. There is saving of time and labour too. The Industrialization has also resulted in a considerable rise in the standard of living of the people. But the Industrial Revolution has severely impacted the atmosphere in general and air pollution due to visible and invisible factors.
Courtesy: Haider Ali
The very cause of air pollution is largely due to the presence in the atmosphere of toxic substances, mainly produced by human activities, even though sometimes it can result from natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions, dust storms and wildfires that severely affect air quality. Combustion of fossil fuels, like coal and oil, produce air pollutants like nitrogen and sulfur dioxide that has an ill effect on human health and results in acid rain that causes damage to the entire environment. There are quite a few industrial products that emit out CFC gases that are responsible for the depletion of the Ozone layer which finally causes global warming.
Agricultural activities, due to the use of pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers that emit harmful chemicals and waste production, mostly because of methane generation in landfills are yet another big cause of air pollution
Air pollution is a major contributor to global warming and climate change. The abundance of carbon dioxide in the air is one of the causes of the greenhouse effect. Normally, the presence of greenhouse gases should be beneficial for the planet because they absorb the infra-red radiation produced by the surface of the earth. But the excessive concentration of these gases in the atmosphere is the cause of the recent climate change. Air pollution is indeed a significant risk factor for human health conditions, causing allergies, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases as well as lung damage.
Nature certainly, if not probably, has its ways and means to take its course. New Evidence Shows How COVID-19 Has Affected Global Air Pollution. Jacinta Bowler on 17 March 2020 revealed that The COVID-19 pandemic is getting more overwhelming by the day, with increasing lockdowns, a death toll of more than 7,000 people across the world, and a direct hit to the global economy. But if there’s a sliver of good news, it’s about how the spread of the new coronavirus has been decreasing air pollution, and possibly even saving lives in the process.
Back on March 8, Marshall Burke Stanford University environmental resource economist came up with calculations about the recent air pollution drop over parts of China. The situation has continued to unfold since then, so those numbers won’t stay current for long; but according to Burke, even conservatively, it’s very likely that the lives saved locally from the reduction in pollution exceed COVID-19 deaths in China.
The two months of pollution reduction, Burke calculates, has probably saved the lives of 4,000 children under 5 and 73,000 adults over 70 in China. That’s significantly more than the current global death toll from the virus itself.
He reveals that this might seem a little surprising, it’s something we’ve known about for quite a long time. Earlier this month, research suggested that air pollution costs us three years, on average, of our global life expectancy. But Burke’s analysis was just using data from China and was completed before there was more information about how COVID-19 has affected the rest of the world.
With the second largest number of cases occurring in Italy, and the country putting in place strict quarantine measures, satellite data over northern Italy have now shown a large drop in air pollution – specifically nitrogen dioxide, a gas mainly emitted by cars, trucks, power plants and some industrial plants.
Using the Tropomi instrument on the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, images taken from 1 January to 11 March 2020 showed nitrogen dioxide dropping dramatically, and this must be due to the reduction in emissions that we can see, coincides with the lock-down in Italy causing less traffic and industrial activities.
Surprisingly, the Air Quality Index of the Karachi has improved significantly following the lockdown in Sindh due to novel coronavirus. According to reports, the Air Quality Index of the city has improved as the traffic on roads has reduced while markets, malls and factories have been closed under a 15-days lockdown. Karachi has been currently placed at the 21st spot in the world in terms of air quality. Experts have said that air quality is improving in countries under coronavirus quarantines, but it is far too early to speak of long-term sustainable change.
Images released by the US space agency NASA indicate that in February 2020, the concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) fell dramatically in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. NO2 is mainly produced by vehicles, industrial sites and thermal power stations. Beijing experienced episodes of pollution owing to fine particles in February, NASA’s Earth Observatory also reported.
The air in Paris was also rated as moderately polluted Friday owing to the presence of fine particles and NO2 even though the population had already been confined at home for three days.
The air pollution was reported to be halved in some UK cities on the first day of the lockdown to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. This apparent from analysis on Air Quality by the Department for Energy, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) monitoring data for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in London, Leeds, Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Bristol and Newcastle, comparing yesterday (March 24 2020) with the same day last year (March 26, 2019).
Reportedly the Edinburgh saw the largest drop in concentrations from a daily average of 74µg/m3 im 2019, to 28µg/m3 yesterday, as regular commuters worked from home and only essential workers were permitted to travel into the Scottish capital to do their job. London Westminster also saw a massive decrease in NO2 emissions, from 58µg/m3 in 2019 to 30µg/m3 yesterday.
Manavi Kapur, a culture and lifestyle reporter reveals that the Air quality in Delhi, notorious for being the worst in the world, is in “healthy zone” thanks to the nationwide, 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19. Other metropolitan and tier-2 cities, too, are witnessing a similar trend.
Since March 25, India has shut down offices, schools, cinema halls, malls, markets, and non-essential service providers. All modes of public transport such as metro trains, buses, inter-state trains, and domestic and international flights for civilian movement have also been stopped.
In the same line, the Daily Times in its 25th March edition reported the Air Quality Index of the Lahore has improved to 74 as the traffic on roads has abbreviated while markets and factories have been closed under a 14-days lockdown due to coronavirus outbreak.
Coronavirus is a curse on hand, while there is a blessing in disguise on the other hand as our biosphere can refresh. Humans from now and onward act sensibly to keep our atmosphere pollution free or humans have to migrate to Moon.
Author : Prof Dr Abdullah G Arijo Chairman Department of Veterinary Parasitology Sindh Agriculture University, Tandojam