Bluer Skies and Cleaner Air Amidst COVID-19 Lock-down

COVID-19 has come with its fair share of shocks and surprises; some good and most definitely unpleasant. One of the good things we have enjoyed about the COVID-19 Lock-down is the bluer skies and cleaner air. In the thick of all the gloom and doom, the silver lining is that ‘mother Earth’ seems to have rejuvenated itself. 

In Uganda for instance, the “Stay Safe, Stay Home” and social distancing measures issued by the Ministry of Health and the nationwide lockdown that was declared by President Museveni has led to a drastic reduction of air pollution across the country because of three major contributing factors namely:

  • Limited vehicular movement resulting into reduced traffic congestion
  • Shutdown of factories, industries, construction sites and other commercial establishments 
  • Reduced cutting down of trees for use as a cooking fuel (charcoal) in households, institutions and other commercial establishments or for timber for commercial use

 The early morning smog has given way to blue skies and there has been a considerable improvement in the air quality levels. In some countries, animals like the Malabar civet, that have been tagged as critically endangered for so long, were spotted walking leisurely on the roads. That sight is most certainly a welcome change from the usually jam-packed roads and highways. Ever since the news of the coronavirus pandemic broke out, there have been several articles published stating the return of many animal and bird species to their natural habitats. (Balaji, 2020)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States in its March 2020 Air Quality Index report shows that there has been a significant reduction in air pollution in cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Michigan, among others. In New Delhi, India, the city has for the first time in a very long time, experienced clean fresh air after decades of air pollutants. According to Kampala’s Air Quality Index captured in the month of April, the concentration of particulate pollutants PM2.5 was below 90 µg/m3 compared to 180+ µg/m3 concentration levels before the COVID-19 outbreak and the shutdown initiative in the city. (Ojara, 2020)

It is unfortunate however, that it had to take a global health crisis like the corona virus pandemic to enable us see an improvement in air quality and bluer skies in Kampala and the rest of the world. The question on many people’s minds however is that, “Is this only a temporary mirage?”

There are an increasing number of researchers and policymakers, scientists and health care practitioners looking at the coronavirus through an ecological lens. Whether they are focused on consumer behavioral changes, changes in emission outputs, or policy decisions that might help or hurt long-term goals for green infrastructure, they are seeing in this moment a pivotal chance to address climate change. “As we respond to the very imminent economic and health crisis, can we also tackle the climate and sustainability crisis?” asked Manish Bapna, WRI’s Managing Director and executive Vice President. (Hanes, 2020)

References

Balaji, R. (2020, April 2). Blue skies, clean air: how the coronavirus lockdown is rejuvenating our environment. New Delhi, New Delhi, India.

Hanes, S. (2020, May 13). Bluer Skies, Less Greenhouse Gas. What Happens After the Pandemic? Massachusetts, Boston, United States of America.

Ojara, E. (2020, April 13). Covid-19 effect on Kampala air . Kampala, Central Division, Uganda.

Written by Joanita Nyangoma, Energy Lab Lead, Innovation Village | E: