The devastating impact of Covid-19 pandemic is getting overwhelming by the day. In a matter of a few months, the entire world has completely transformed. The virus has impacted millions of people around the world and their entire way of life has been changed by it.
India is underway its three week long lockdown wherein people have been told to stay at homes. Companies are asking their employees to work remotely and cancel all business-related travel. Major events and conferences have been cancelled or postponed. This is aimed solely at controlling the infection curve and hopefully reduces the number of death toll. However, it has also resulted in an unexpected relief to the global environment. As the virus impacts business, work and travel, levels of air pollutants and warming gases over cities around the world are showing a significant drop.
Indian cities and towns have recorded a drop in air and noise pollution. What were once crowded and chaotic cities are eerily quiet as people continue to stay at home. And with humans cooped inside their homes, the stillness of the streets is encouraging birds and animals to step out. The skies are also clean and blue, probably due to a drop in pollution.
So, what has changed? The polluting vehicles are off the road- both in terms of emissions they cause and also noise. And for critics who always maintained that reducing the number of ICE vehicles is not enough to curb air pollution, the answer is right outside your windows.
The pandemic is giving us a glimpse of what a transition to electric vehicles on the urban roads could mean. With fewer ICE vehicles on the road, nature is healing and it is also a clear indication that cities are breathing better.
According to the data of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the air quality in 39 Indian cities has recorded “good” AQI and 51 cities have recorded “satisfactory” AQI in the last few days. In Kanpur, which records the highest pollution levels in the country, the AQI is in the “satisfactory” category.
The level of Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) pollution has also reduced, according to The Centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR). NOx pollution is mainly caused by high motor vehicle traffic and is linked to the risk of respiratory conditions. In Ahmedabad, NOx pollution has dropped by 50 per cent, In Mumbai and Pune by 38 per cent and 43 per cent respectively.
We can’t help but wonder when the pandemic eventually subsides, will the high emission and carbon levels bounce back to alarming and deadly numbers? Or will we use this as a reminder of another challenge ahead of us- climate change and how the tools to control the crisis are very much in our hands with slight adaptations to our lifestyle and habits.
Some reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that about 7 million premature deaths annually are linked to air pollution.
But since air pollution and climate change do not in most cases bring immediate deaths, unlike coronavirus, the issue does not draw enough attention. The economic cost of public and private healthcare sector for treating preventable illnesses plus the heavy loss businesses face due to lost man-hours is immense. The world is getting a glimpse of it with the Covid-19 pandemic. And going by the reports about the adverse effect of air pollution on human lives, the silent pandemic of air pollution is going to be even bigger. This is a wake-up call for countries, politicians and citizens alike.
At Ampere, we believe that fighting a big global crisis requires radical changes, both from the government and its people. The threat of global warming was a major reason for us to make clean and sustainable energy available to the public. By making e-scooters accessible to Indian cities, we have been able to cut down emissions created by conventional two-wheelers drastically.
An infectious and deadly virus is definitely not how anyone would have wanted for emissions to be lowered. Covid-19 has taken a horrific global toll on lives, health services, jobs, and mental health. But if anything, it has taught us important lessons that we needed to learn to enter a new decade wherein we require collaborative action to cut emissions and slow down global warming.