Appraisal of COVID-19 lockdown and unlocking effects on the air quality of North India

Environ Res. 2021 Sep 21:112107. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.112107. Online ahead of print.


The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown supposedly provided a ‘window’ of reinstatement to natural resources including the air quality, but the scenario after the phased unlocking is yet to be explored. Consequently, here we evaluated the status of air quality during the 8th phase of unlocking of COVID-19 lockdown (January 2021) at three locations of North India. The first site (S1) was located at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana-PPCB; the second site (S2) at Yamunapuram, Bulandshahr-UPPCB; and the third site (S3) at Okhla Phase-2, Delhi-DPCC. The levels of PM2.5 showed a significant increase of 525.2%, 281.2%, and 185.0% at sites S1, S2 and S3, respectively in the unlock 8 (January 2021), in comparison to its concentration in the lockdown phase. Coherently, the levels of PM10 also showed a prominent increase of 284.5%, 189.1%, and 103.9% at sites S3, S1, and S2, respectively during the unlock 8 as compared to its concentration in the lockdown phase. This rise in the concentration of PM2.5 and PM10 could be primarily attributed to the use of biomass fuel, industrial and vehicular emissions, stubble burning considering the agricultural activities at sites S1 and S2. Site S3 is a major industrial hub and has the highest population density among all three sites. Consequently, the maximum increase (295.7%) in the NO2 levels during the unlock 8 was witnessed at site S3. The strong correlation between PM2.5, PM10, and CO, along with the PM2.5/PM10 ratio confirmed the similar origin of these pollutants at all the three sites. The improvements in the levels of air quality during the COVID-19 lockdown were major overtaken during the various phases of unlocking consequent to the initiation of anthropogenic processes.

PMID:34560058 | PMC:PMC8455374 | DOI:10.1016/j.envres.2021.112107


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