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CoronaVirus and its impact on air

EHSAAN QADIR BHAT

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. People may be sick with the virus for 1 to 14 days before developing symptoms. The most common symptoms of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.
More rarely, the disease can be serious and even fatal. Older people, and people with other medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), may be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill. People may experience cough fever, cough, difficulty breathing (severe cases)
There’s currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease (COVID-19). You can protect yourself and help prevent spreading the virus to others if you:
• Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.
• Cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or flexed elbow when you cough or sneeze.
• Avoid close contact (1 meter or 3 feet) with people who are unwell.
• Stay home and self-isolate from others in the household if you feel unwell.
• Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth if your hands are not clean.
There is no specific medicine to prevent or treat coronavirus disease (COVID-19). People may need supportive care to help them breathe. Self-care, stay at home until you’ve recovered. You can relieve your symptoms if you: rest and sleep, drink plenty of warm water, use a room humidifier or take a hot shower to help ease a sore throat and cough.

In a matter of months, the world has been transformed. Thousands of people have already died, and hundreds of thousands more have fallen ill, from a coronavirus that was previously unknown before appearing in the city of Wuhan in December 2019. For millions of others who have not caught the disease, their entire way of life has changed by it.
The streets of Wuhan, China, were deserted after authorities implemented a strict lockdown. In Italy, the most extensive travel restrictions are in place. In London, the normally bustling pubs, bars and theatres have been closed and people have been told to stay in their homes. Worldwide, flights are being cancelled, as the aviation industry buckles. Those who are able to do so are holed up at home, practicing social distancing and working remotely.
It is all aimed at controlling the spread of Covid-19, and hopefully reducing the death toll. But all this change has also led to some unexpected consequences on air; Here is how

  1. One of the main impacts of the coronavirus outbreak has been a significant drop in air pollution in many parts of the world. Most notably seen in developed, or developing, industrial nations like China and in Europe.Satellite imagery from the likes of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) has been seen by many experts as “the largest scale experiment ever” in terms of reduction in emissions around the world. Data from satellites like the ESA’s Sentinel-5P Satellite over the last few weeks have shown a significant drop in polluting gases like nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Nitrogen dioxide is mainly produced by car engines, power plants, and other industrial processes, It is believed to be the cause for a myriad of health problems, especially respiratory illnesses like asthma. One of the largest drops in the gas has been seen in Wuhan, Central China. The city has was under strict lockdown since January. Most of its 11 million inhabitants have been confined to their homes and industry, plus travel effectively came to a halt. This resulted in a 10-30% drop in emissions over the period. With many people around the world self-isolating voluntarily or by official edict, some major cities outside of China are also seeing their air quality improve. One example is NewYork. Researchers have found that there has been a 5- to 10% drop in air pollutants like carbon dioxide in New York. Methane emissions have also dropped significantly.
Traffic levels are also significantly down, with some estimating in the region of 35%. Carbon monoxide emissions have also dropped by somewhere in the region of 50 %.

  1. Another interesting effect on the environment has been a significant reduction in air travel. In places like Europe, air traffic has taken a serious nosedive. This is significantly improving air quality and reducing pollution in the skies above many countries of the world. With fewer planes buzzing around, issues associated with contrails and exhaust emissions are easing.
    Many airlines are canceling ever more of their flights as the virus spreads around the world.
  2. Yet another impact on the environment as a consequence of coronavirus is the marked drop in coal consumption. This has contributed, in no small part, to the drop in air pollutants in places like China.Not only is this improving air quality in the regions affected, but it is reducing the number of airborne pollutants like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrous oxides.
    China is, at present, one of the biggest producers and consumers of coal. It is estimated that they consumed around 59% of it for their energy needs in 2018. It helps runs much of its industry and is also used as a domestic fuel source for many of its citizens.
    China’s major coal-fired power stations saw a 36% drop in consumption between February and March this year.
  3. Another one is that as more and more people are put under lock-down around the world, energy consumption profiles in buildings are being disrupted. With many people now working from home domestic energy consumption is predicted to have risen sharply.It has been predicted that this has risen somewhere in the region of 6 to 8% in the U.S. alone. Conversely, with fewer people in commercial or educational buildings, their energy consumption should plummet by as much as a quarter to 30%.This will ultimately save energy as the increase in domestic use is more than compensated by the larger drop in commercial and educational building uses. It also has the knock-on effect of reducing the consumption of polluting fuels in power stations as demand falls.
    Since the March 25 lockdown that forced 1.3 billion Indians to stay home, air quality in New Delhi, usually the worst in the world has dropped to “satisfactory” levels. The lockdown order shut down offices, schools, movie theaters, 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. The effect of the lockdown has been dramatic. In New Delhi, where flights have been diverted because smog shrouded the airport, the air pollution levels have dropped 71 percent in just one week.
    Finally, some countries may be able to meet their Paris Climate Accord goals because of the pandemic. As sectors like transportation and production come to a grinding halt, the associated emissions caused by them are also dropping as a consequence.

  1. Author is doing M.Sc ENVIROMENTAL SCIENCE
  2. Can be mailed [email protected])