Nature breathes as India goes into lockdown for a day, air quality improves in top Indian cities


  • On March 22, as many as 1.3 billion Indians stayed in their homes to observe ‘Janta curfew’ in the wake of coronavirus.
  • Bengaluru, Kolkata, Delhi and Lucknow witnessed a cleaner air with Air Quality Index (AQI) staying in two digits.
  • PM 2.5 levels in Delhi halved in 12 hours of the lockdown.
  • The pollution levels in Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar in UP soared despite the curfew, commercial shutdown and vehicles off the road.
As many as 1.3 billion Indians stayed in their homes, watching birds, pigeons fly across clear blue skies and animals moved around freely on the roads — all in the wake of Coronavirus.

During the one-day lockdown, air quality levels improved significantly across the country on Sunday (March 22), thanks to empty streets and closed markets.

City streets wear deserted look during Janta Curfew in the wake of deadly coronavirus, in Mumbai. PM Modi proposed a 'Janta curfew' between 7 am and 9 pm as part of social distancing to check the spread of the deadly virus. The number of coronavirus cases across the country rose to above 320 on Sunday.Photo/Kunal Patil)(

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Air Quality Index improves significantly

Bengaluru, Kolkata, Delhi and Lucknow witnessed a cleaner air as the Air Quality Index (AQI) stayed within two digits. In Kolkata, at 2:50 PM, air quality remained ‘satisfactory’, as per the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) — while Bengaluru’s AQI dropped down to 60 in some of the most crowded areas.

"The other side of the Coronavirus outbreak is lower emission of pollutants in the air due to near-total shutdown, with a few very vehicles plying the roads" the board officials said.

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Signature Bridge wears a deserted look during 'Janta curfew' in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, in New Delhi. PM Modi proposed a 'Janta curfew' between 7 am and 9 pm as part of social distancing to check the spread of the deadly virus. The number of coronavirus cases across the country rose to above 320 on Sunday.Photo/Kamal Kishore)(

The air quality index in Lucknow too stood at 61 by Sunday noon, which otherwise clocks anywhere around 200.

“Many of the actions the people are taking to fight the Coronavirus, like self-imposed ‘curfew’ or working from home, will have an additional benefit of reducing carbon footprint, besides breaking the virus transmission chain. This will help in reduction of individual’s production of greenhouse gases thus significantly curbing emission. This in turn could help in improving the air quality,” said Narendra Nath, Scientist at the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board.

By 1 PM, air pollutants in Delhi halved in 12 hours of the lockdown
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Deserted street outside Jama Masjid during Janta curfew in the wake of deadly coronavirus, in New Delhi. PM Modi proposed a 'Janta curfew' between 7 am and 9 pm as part of social distancing to check the spread of the deadly virus. The number of coronavirus cases across the country rose to above 320 on Sunday.Photo/Kamal Kishore)(

On the other hand, air pollutants in Delhi’s air which was at 126 micrograms per cubic metre at 1 AM, went down by almost halved in just 12 hours at 1 PM. It finally went down to 33 micrograms per cubic metre, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

Meanwhile, the data by the Centre for Science and Environment shows that the NO2 concentration, which is primarily due to the industries and vehicle emissions, also reduced by over 40% by late evening compared to the previous day.

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“We are yet to analyse the 24-hour change, but the 12-hour average from 8 am to 8 pm on Saturday and Sunday showed a dip in both PM2.5 and NO2,” Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director of research and advocacy, CSE told the Times of India.

By 4 pm, the AQI in the national capital, one of the most polluted in the country, showed ‘moderate’ — after a long time.

The ‘sounds of silence’

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And there was physical evidence of nature enjoying the lockdown too. Flocks of pigeons fluttering around in Connaught Place, a silent peaceful sight at India Gate — which is otherwise crowded with over 50,000 people — and the Marine Drive looked like never before. Such was the impact of the ‘Janta curfew.’

A deserted view of Connaught Place during Janta Curfew in the wake of the deadly novel coronavirus, in New Delhi. PM Modi proposed a 'Janta curfew' between 7 am and 9 pm as part of social distancing to check the spread of the deadly virus. The number of coronavirus cases across the country rose to above 320 on Sunday.Photo/Ravi Choudhary)(

“Marine Drive, Mumbai, this morning...this is what national discipline means. Jai Hind,” Amitabh Bachchan said in a tweet.


Meanwhile, in a few parts of Uttar Pradesh

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While the lockdown cleansed the environment at most places, the pollution levels in Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar in UP soared despite the curfew, commercial shutdown and vehicles off the road.

The AQI in Ghaziabad, Greater Noida and Noida showed ‘poor’, and ‘moderate’ levels, at 237, 224 and 176, respectively, according to CPCB.

Hindon elevated road wears a deserted look during 'Janta curfew' in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, in Ghaziabad. PM Modi proposed a 'Janta curfew' between 7 am and 9 pm as part of social distancing to check the spread of the deadly virus. The number of coronavirus cases across the country rose to above 320 on Sunday.Photo/Arun Sharma)(

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However, the officials in the state expect a dip during the lockdown period. “High levels of pollution levels have been recorded in the two districts since the start of winter. When all business and industrial establishments are shut and vehicles are off roads, the pollution levels will come down. It may take some time for pollutants to get dispersed,” environmentalist Akash Vashishtha told the Hindustan Times.

The havoc Coronavirus has caused
Students wear masks as prevention against coronavirus during school assembly, in Jammu.Photo)(

The pandemic has caused seven deaths so far in India and the total number of active Coronavirus cases rose to 359, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

On the flipside, China — which was first hit by the virus — has reported no new infections on the third consecutive day (March 22). According to the government statistics, India has already supplied 15 tonnes of medical aid — masks, gloves and other emergency equipment — to China worth ₹2.1 crore.
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