Virus curfew leads to clearer skies
Statesman Report
PESHAWAR: The ongoing lockdown has provided a silver lining for Pakistan and it’s written in the skies – since the curfew was imposed a few weeks ago, pollution has dropped by up to 80 percent in the country.
“Our PM2.5 before mid of March, and before the spell of rains was at hazardous levels combined with the vehicle emissions, industrial pollution, and heightened concentration of construction contaminates,” Dr. Mohsina Zubair, Deputy Director Labs at the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), told Arab News.
The PM2.5 index refers to tiny particles or droplets in the air that are two-and one-half microns or less in width.
Zubair credits the drop in pollution levels to the halting of all economic and industrial activities in the country.
“Following the closure of schools, industries, and construction work – which affects the ambient air quality – the readings have dropped from 90 to 11 microns in Islamabad,” she said, referring to the count which tends to fluctuate every day.
With the environment finally beginning to “heal itself nationwide,” Zubair said the biggest plus is its impact on people’s health.
“Air pollution was a major factor for a reduced lifespan, but now the air is so clean that those who are sensitive to outdoor pollutants can finally breath [stress free],” she said, before adding a caveat.
“The situation will return to its normal state as it was three weeks ago, if authorities reopen all the sectors,” the EPA official warned.
She said that as a solution, and based on the recommendations of the World Health Organization, it was advisable “to extend the lockdown for at least two months without evaluating various harmful factors”.
The findings are supported by the views shared by UN Environment Program chief, Inger Andersen, who said earlier this month that “the visible, positive impacts – whether through improved air quality or reduced greenhouse gas emissions – are but temporary, because they come on the back of tragic economic slowdown and human distress.”
Andersen added that the pandemic will also result in the generation of increased amounts of medical and hazardous waste, citing recommendations from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in the US which said “fossil fuel use would have to decline by about 10 percent around the world, and sustained for a year to show up clearly in carbon dioxide levels.”
“An important pillar in our post-COVID recovery plan must be to arrive at an ambitious, measurable and inclusive framework, because keeping nature rich, diverse and flourishing is part and parcel of our life’s support system,” Anderson said.