India: Reduced economic activities during lockdown led to low air pollution in most parts of India: study

Reduced economic activities during the pandemic-related lockdown had led to lower air pollution in most parts of India, but satellite observations show parts of mid-west and northern India have recorded an increase in pollution contrary to the general trend, the government said on Monday citing a study. Scientists from the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), an autonomous institute under the Department of Science and Technology, used EUMETSAT and NASA satellite observations for the years 2018, 2019 and 2020, and studied the influence of a significant break in activities on the evolution of the distribution of ozone, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide during the confinement period.

According to the study published in “Environmental Science and Pollution Research”, ozone, carbon monoxide and NO2 increased by about 15% in the central western part of India.

According to the results, carbon monoxide showed a consistent increase (up to 31%) in concentration at higher heights during lockdown.

The study was led by Prajjwal Rawat, Principal Investigator at ARIES Nainital, with his research director, Dr Manish Naja.

In a statement, the Ministry of Science and Technology said that scientists have identified that regions of mid-western India and northern India are prone to higher exposure to air pollution. air based on state-of-the-art satellite observations and are therefore at greater risk of respiratory problems.

“In 2020, a full nationwide lockdown was imposed on India to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease. This has disrupted the economy tremendously with only one positive side effect, a short-term improvement in the quality of food. air near the surface,” the ministry said.

Satellite observation of toxic trace gases – ozone, NO2 and carbon monoxide – near the surface and in the free troposphere mainly showed a reduction in pollutants over India, he said.

However, in some areas like mid-west India, parts of northern India and remote Himalayas, an increase in ozone and other toxic gases has been observed. This could have aggravated respiratory health risks in those areas during the pandemic, the ministry said.

Long-range transport and downward transport from the stratosphere significantly increased ozone concentrations in northern India during the lockdown, and remote areas like the Himalayas and coastal cities showed the minimal influence of lock on air quality, with a trend towards an increase in polluting air criteria, according to the study.

According to the ARIES team, this study made it possible to identify the regions prone to greater exposure to air pollution and therefore to identify the areas most at risk for health.

Previously, the team, along with ISRO scientists, showed INSAT-3D as a valuable Indian geostationary satellite to study ozone pollutants over India. However, for other criteria air pollutants such as NO2, SO2 and CO, India lacks space-based observations and needs an indigenous air quality monitoring satellite in orbit.

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