The world economy has hit its lowest point in years because of coronavirus pandemic. More than half of the global population is under lockdown, restraining them from moving out. Travel bans across the globe have stopped all sorts of tourist actions. While these actions might have caused a lot of damage to the human systems, it has given a great opportunity to the environment to finally take a breath of relief and heal.
Climate change and environmental degradation have been a cause of major concern in recent times. The global community has time and again gathered to discuss and innovate solutions to control pollution levels and tackle climate change. Together the countries have made commitments to cut down carbon emissions by setting up various targets, switching to renewables and taking steps for carbon sequestration. However, they have not been able to take drastic actions to cut the emissions down, in turn, not giving the environment – time to heal.
Following are some of the positives experienced by the environment and biodiversity during the COVID – 19 lockdowns.
The world’s largest lockdown has caused a temporary shutdown of many industries and offices. This has resulted in a drastic improvement in air quality across the world. According to research by Columbia University, both carbon monoxide and carbon-dioxide emissions were observed to have fallen by around 50 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively, in New York City in the USA.
It was observed by Carbon Brief that China experienced 25 per cent decrease in emissions across the country during February 2020 due to the reduced use of coal and crude oil, as compared to the same time in 2019. Additionally, the amount of nitrogen dioxide also dropped by 36 per cent right after the Chinese New Year holiday, compared to last year.
India has also observed similar results. In fact, People living in Jalandhar in northern Punjab have for the first time in 30 years, been able to view the Himalayas from their rooftops. This view was not visible to them for the longest time because of excessive pollution in the region. The PM 2.5 levels have been the lowest in the capital considering the reduced industrial activity. Additionally, Nitrous Oxide pollution has also reduced because of reduced vehicular pollution.
This is a picture taken in Jalandhar of Dhauladar Range which is 200-250 km away . pic.twitter.com/sPKsF0LeAs
— Aditya (@aapkaditya) April 4, 2020
After years, the river Yamuna has started to clean itself. River Yamuna was among the world’s most polluted rivers. Now with the lockdown in place in India, industries in Haryana and Delhi are not drawing water from Yamuna River. In addition to this, the rain spells in the river accompanied with the surplus water from Ganga Jal Pipeline released into the river, Yamuna has been experiencing raised water level. This has allowed the river to rejuvenate and clean. It has also led the birds to return to the river which would be the first sign of restoration of its biodiversity.
Reduced tourism in Venice, Italy has allowed nature to take respite, allowing the water in the canals to self-cleanse. The improvement in water clarity of the canals is believed to be linked to a reduced amount of sediment clouding the waterways, with the decline in water traffic meaning the muddy canal floors are no longer being churned up. This has given a chance to the locals to enjoy the views of fishes and colourful plant life within the lagoon.
The wildlife across the globe has been having the best of times during the lockdown. Lack of people and traffic on the roads has allowed them to venture out in the city and reclaim the lands that was once their own homes.
In India, citizens across the country have reported and posted pictures of various birds and animals on the empty streets. A Mumbai-based photographer Manav Manglani shared pictures and videos of peacocks dancing on empty streets in the Maximum city on Instagram.
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Similarly, in Kerala’s Kozhikode, an Indian civet was spotted walking on the road. In Noida, a Nilgai was spotted walking leisurely on the road in its busiest Sector-18.
In Barcelona, Spain, boars have been spotted along the city’s normally bustling avenues which used to be filled with vehicles at one time. In Chile’s capital, Santiago, a wild puma was captured after being found wandering around the city’s deserted centre during a night-time curfew. It is thought that the animal may have ventured down into the capital from nearby surrounding hills.
The marine life has also been thriving because of reduced water pollution. A number of people have shared several videos of dolphins, swimming and playing near Mumbai sea shore. The videos have gone viral on various social media platforms.
The air in Mumbai is so nice, light and fresh ..!!! I can’t believe it ?… and it seems dolphins were sighted just off the shore near Breach Candy club ..!!! This shutdown of cities is not so bad after all #CoronavirusPandemic pic.twitter.com/t94vhFyPRy
— Juhi Chawla (@iam_juhi) March 21, 2020
The reason for the return of dolphins in the region is attributed to the fact that there are no fishing activities happening in the sea for quite some time now because of COVID – 19 lockdowns. The lockdown has also provided for a perfect condition for the Olive Ridley turtles to lay eggs in Odisha’s Gahirmatha beach and Rushikulya’s rookery. Under normal circumstances, this event is known to attract huge crowds and officials from the Forest Department generally deploy a significant amount of efforts and resources to patrol gatherings, protect the eggs, and later release the hatchlings into the sea. However, this time around, there are no such interruptions.
In North America, Killer Whales or Orcas have been spotted in parts of a Vancouver fjord for the first time in decades because of lack of human presence.
Apparently the natural world likes the economic slow down. Saw a pod of four Orca whales in Indian Arm yesterday. First time in my 59 years I have seen whales this far up the Arm. #northvan pic.twitter.com/WYoi6RrJcT
— Jim Hanson (@jimhanson_NV) March 28, 2020