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‘Lockdowns have improved Nigerian air quality, others’

By Bertram Nwannekanma
18 May 2020   |   3:36 am
With many factories and businesses closed, combined with fewer cars on the road and planes in the sky, the natural environment is recovering slowly

With many factories and businesses closed, combined with fewer cars on the road and planes in the sky, the natural environment is recovering slowly, according to environmental experts.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused industrial activity to shut down and cancelled flights and other journeys, slashing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution around the world. If there is something positive to take from this terrible crisis, it could be that the air quality is a bit better.

Among many other sectors, transport is the most hard-hit sector due to the lockdown. Road and air transport came to halt as people are not allowed or hesitate to travel.

These changes in transport activities and oil demand exert a significant impact on environmental quality.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that about three million people die each year from ailments caused by air pollution and that more than 80per cent of people living in urban areas is exposed to air quality levels that exceed safe limits.

The situation is worse in low-income countries, where 98 per cent of cities fail to meet WHO air quality standards.

Also, recent data released by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and ESA (European Space Agency) indicates that pollution in some of the epicentres of COVID-19 such as Wuhan, Italy, Spain, the USA among others has reduced up to 30 per cent.

According to the report, air travel dropped by 96 per cent due to COVID-19, the lowest in 75 years.

Furthermore, not only the transport sector but also the industrial and manufacturing sectors were grievously affected by the pandemic with mobility reduced up to 90 per cent.

COVID-19 has a severe negative impact on human health and world economy, however, it also results in pollution reduction due to limited social and economic activities.

NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) is a highly reactive pollutant and emitted especially from the combustion of fossil fuels.

Speaking on this, Founder, Friends of the Environment (FOTE), Mrs. Joanna Maduka, an engineer, said although the pandemic has unsettled the world, with industrial activities brought to a halt, the reduction could be seen as a positive.

According to her, there are no developmental activities now, “pollution has gone down because factories are not working, but at the same thing there is no production, some countries are just coming out as they called it a new normal.

“Production is almost zero everywhere, pollution is down, no production is zero and I am not sure is a good thing for the world right now.

“But there are always two sides to everything, there is positive and negative, the world can’t survive without economic activities.

“So the benefit is the reduction of pollution, on the other hand, we got to produce to be able to maintain our existence”, she added.

Also, President, Society for Environmental Toxicology and Pollution Mitigation (SETPOM), Dr Funmilayo Doherty said, air pollution is a global problem and its effects can be seen even across developed nations such as Europe where 193,000 people died due to air pollution in 2012.

He stressed that the reduction in air pollution is something positive because all over the world it has been observed that air quality has improved considerably and even for biodiversity.

According to her, there are instances, where they are seeing some of the wild animals coming out which does not normally happen usually.

This is the positive thing for the environment, especially when you consider that about 4.6 million people die yearly worldwide due to poor air quality.