The Positives of COVID-19 on the Environment

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From blue skies in India to the packs of animals wandering empty streets, we have been seeing comforting prospects amid the COVID-19 outbreak’s gloominess. As economies halt and millions of people stay at home in efforts to flatten the curve, the outbreak has had a major impact on the environment. These unintended consequences are being observed across the world, especially in the most polluted cities on the globe.

According to satellite images from NASA, with less manufacturing and transportation in China, “levels of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant primarily from burning fossil fuels, were down as much as 30%.” With an estimation of 1 million deaths in China every year due to air pollution, there is no doubt that there will be a reduction in these health-related problems now that air quality has been improving.  

Although horribly hit with the outbreak at the beginning of March, and now currently under lockdown, Venice, Italy’s usually murky and dark waterways have cleared. A spokesman from the Venice mayor’s office stated that “The water now looks clearer because there is less traffic on the canals, allowing the sediment to stay at the bottom.” But the spokesman also added, “The air, however, is less polluted since there are less vaporetti [canal boats] and boat traffic than usual because of the restricted movement of residents.” 

Los Angeles’s infamous smog has disappeared, as there are fewer vehicles on the road, the city has experienced the best air quality since the 1980s. 

Likewise, researchers at Columbia University have seen a drop of more than 50% in emissions of carbon monoxide all over New York City – due to the decline in car traffic across the city. 

With Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to put the country under an almost month-long lockdown, air quality has improved by up to 60% compared to the recordings of last year. This is primarily a result of the fall in vehicular emissions and the closedown of factories. During the day, pure blue skies emerge, and at night, shiny stars can be seen. In addition, residents from Jalandhar (a city in Punjab, northwestern India) have claimed they’re able to see the Dhauladhar range’s snow-clad mountaintops from their very own rooftops. 

Several pictures show that from Nairobi (the capital city of Kenya), the second-highest mountain in Africa – Mount Kenya – is visible about 85 miles away, due to reduced pollution. Although the picture was real, many found it so unbelievable that it became a meme and similar disbelieving photoshopped images started appearing on the web. 

Furthermore, with millions of people across the world remaining indoors, animals have taken to roam around deserted cities. Coyotes and turkeys have been trotting around California; sika deer are wandering streets and subway stations in Japan; raccoons have been spotted in Panama’s empty beaches; a pride of lions has taken to rest on the empty roads of South Africa’s Kruger National Park; peacocks have been strolling the streets of Spain. 

All of these are just small glimpses at what cleaner earth would look like without any human interference. These situations – all caused by measures taken because of the coronavirus pandemic – are helpful in showing people that a different and more sustainable world is possible, in which human activity isn’t a threat to the environment. Nevertheless, when this is all over if governments continue to take measures that ensure a much greener environment, the entire globe could be rebuilt in an imperishable way. 

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