World Journal of Environmental Biosciences
World Journal of Environmental Biosciences
2021 Volume 10 Issue 2

COVID-19 Forced Lockdown: Nature’s Strategy to Rejuvenate Itself

 

Koushik Sen1*, Tanmay Sanyal2, Susanta Roy Karmakar3

 

1 Department of Zoology, Jhargram Raj College, Jhargram, West Bengal, India.

2 Department of Zoology, Krishnagar Government College, Krishnagar, West Bengal, India.

3Department of Zoology, Maulana Azad College, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.


ABSTRACT

Coronavirus diseases-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic emerged in late 2019 and many countries initially adopted partial or complete lockdown measures to restrict the transmission of the disease, as effective drugs or vaccines were unavailable till then. Imposing lockdown drastically reduced anthropogenic and commercial activity. All types of large and small industries and markets were closed; all sorts of public and commercial transportation, except for the essential ones, along with railways and flights were completely shut off. Worldwide reports and research indicating that COVID-19 induced lockdown might have a crucial impact on the global environment. During the lockdown, air and water quality improved significantly due to low atmospheric pollution, environmental noise reduced and wild lives are also blooming. COVID-19 may be nature’s warning to the human being; when human beings are confined in homes for saving their lives, nature takes advantage and try to heal herself. Based on available research and media reporting, in this article, we try to summarize the episode of COVID-19 induced lockdown and its effect on the environment especially emphasizing the Indian context.

Keywords: COVID-19, Environmental impact, Lockdown, SARS-COV-2


Introduction

 

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that infect humans through zoonotic transmission. After Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) (Ramadan and Shaib 2019; Zhong et al., 2003; Magomedova et al., 2020) in the last two decades, in late December 2019, a novel infectious disease was identified in the Wuhan city of China (Rivas et al., 2020). The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) named the virus “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2” (SARS-CoV-2) (Gorbalenya et al., 2020), and the disease was named COVID-19 (Chen et al., 2020) on February 19, 2020, by World Health Organization (WHO). With affecting more than 175.5 million people and causing nearly 3.8 million deaths (as of 14th June 2021) in more than 200 countries, so far, the COVID-19 is the largest pandemic on the earth (WHO, 2020a). SARS-CoV2 is a member of the β-coronavirus subgroup under the Coronaviridae family (Pyrc et al., 2007) having glycoprotein spikes like a crown on its surface with a diameter ranging between 65-125 nm. COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets expelled by the infected person’s coughing, sneezing, talking, singing, or spread by touching fomites (Bouey et al., 2020). Recently, WHO (on 9th July 2020) admitted that the virus can also be transmitted through the air (WHO, 2020b). This newly-born disease has a long incubation period ranging between 2-14 days with symptoms like breathing difficulty, dry cough, fever, mild pain or pressure in the chest, and blue lips (CDC, 2020). Initially, there are no specific effective drugs to prevent the disease (Cortegiani et al., 2020). Some preexisting antibacterial and antiviral drugs such as favipiravir, remdesivir, tocilizumab, ivermectin, and lopinavir are used to combat this disease (Paital et al., 2020). There are approximately 300 promising vaccine candidates under trial, among which 102 are under clinical trial and the rest are under preclinical evaluation (WHO, 2020c). National Regulatory Authorities recently approved sixteen vaccine candidates, for emergency mass vaccination purposes (WHO, 2021).

The emergency committee of WHO, on 30th January 2020, declared the disease as a global health emergency (WHO, 2020d). Initially, due to a lack of effective medicine or vaccine, the social lockdown was the only way to maintain less human interaction for preventing this disease from spreading (Paital et al., 2020). Several countries implemented these lockdown measures at different stages of infection; China imposing lockdown from the end of January 2020 in Wuhan, whereas in Italy the nationwide lockdown was first applied from 09th March 2020, and in Spain, Australia, United Kingdom, and France, the lockdown measure was imposed on 14th March 23rd March, 23rd March, 17th March 2020, respectively (Wikipedia, 2020a).

In India, the first confirmed positive case of COVID-19 was reported from Kerala on 13th January 2020 (India Today, 2020) and now India holds 2nd position with 29,510,410 confirmed cases and 374,305 deaths as of 14th June 2021 (Worldometer, 2020). With 500 confirmed cases, the Prime minister requested all the citizens of the country to observe a 14 hrs (7.00 A.M-9.00 P.M. IST) voluntarily social distancing campaign, observed as Janata curfew on 22nd March 2020 (The Hindu, 2020a), followed by a nationwide imposed locked down from 25th March 2020 with initial duration for 21 days and extended till June 30th. Step by step unlocking procedure was started but till now, to control the second wave of COVID-19, state governments are imposed a lockdown on a regional scale (Wikipedia 2020b; Indian Express, 2021). Different phases of lockdown are implemented with different rules and levels of restrictions to maintain strict social distancing as a measure to reduce the effects and transmission of Coronavirus (Somani et al., 2020). In general, under the nationwide lockdown, all the academic institutions, industries, multiplex, shopping complexes, restaurants, and similar public places were closed. All sorts of transportation services including railways and flights were suspended except the essential one. The lockdown affected the Indian economy but led to a dramatic decrease in air pollution and improvement of overall environmental health including surface water quality, GHG emissions, noise level, and organic and inorganic west product generation.

The total or partial social lockdown around the planet to flatten the pandemic curve results in less anthropogenic and economic activity and human-environment interaction and led to a decrease in pollution (The Gurdian, 2020). In a nutshell COVID-19, the biggest pandemic and curse to human civilization to date may be a warning for us from Nature to stop destroying the natural resources, on the other side when we are quarantined at home to prevent this fatal disease, nature is trying to heal itself.

In this article, we try to sum up the impact of COVID-19-induced lockdown on the global environment almost on every aspect (air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, greenhouse gas (GHG) emission, biodiversity, and wildlife) with emphasizing the Indian context using available literature, news from media and various regulatory authorities.

COVID-19 and Status of Air Pollution

To live on the earth, ambient air quality is the essential one; although globally 91% of people live under poor air quality (WHO, 2016). Air pollution is responsible for 4.6 million deaths globally (Cohen et al., 2017). The concentration of particulate matter (PM) is one of the major parameters to measure air quality. The high PM2.5 is responsible for adverse health effects causing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), respiratory infection (GBD, 2018), is declined in various cities all over the world due to lockdown measures. In Zaragoza (city of Spain) the PM2.5 significantly decreased 58% in March 2020 compared to February 2020; in Rome, the average PM2.5 value lowered 24 % in March 2020 compared to the value of February 2020. In Dubai (UAE) the PM2.5 reduced by 11% during March 2020 compared to March 2019 (Chauhan and Singh 2020). According to the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS) of the European Union, in a large area of China mean value of PM2.5 reduced up to 20-30% in February when compared to the mean value of February 2017, 2018, and 2019 (Zambrano-Monserrate et al., 2020). A study to analyze the PM2.5 of fifty most polluted capital cities of different countries around the world reported an average 12% reduction in PM2.5 concentration worldwide with the highest reduction in the African continent by 33% followed by a 22 % reduction in America and 16 % in Asia; finally, in European countries the reduction level was only 5% due to lockdown in last year (Table 1) (Rodríguez-Urrego and Rodríguez-Urrego, 2020). Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a highly reactive air pollutant emitted from vehicles and industrial activity and causes inflammation, and respiratory distress (He et al., 2020a; He et al., 2020b). National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and European Space Agency (ESA) released images, of several nations before and during the lockdown, using Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) through the AURA satellite and Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) through the Sentinel-5P satellite to capture the data suggests a reduction in NO2 concentration up to 30 % with improved environmental quality (Table 2). Heavy changes in NO2 concentration were observed in the middle of March 2020, onwards in South Asia and South-East Asian countries including a large part in India, due to the closure of industries and transportation service. Similar changes were recorded in Western Africa and Europe (Lal et al., 2020). Carbon dioxide (CO2), another major air pollutant has led to a sharp decline of approximately 17% by 7th April 2020 when compared to 2019 levels due to the peak in global lockdown. The carbon emission was reduced by 23.9 %, 30.7 %, and 31.6 % in China, UK, and USA, respectively. In India, carbon emission was reduced by 26 % (Le Quéré et al., 2020).

In India, gradual improvement in the overall air quality was also observed. Air Quality Index is an important value to measure the overall air pollution due to principal air pollutants; the lower the AQI value and air quality are inversely related. During the complete lockdown period in 2020, the Air Quality Index (AQI) of the country was 30% reduced when compared to 2019. The north, south, east, west, and central regions of India experienced a 44, 33, 29, 32, and 15 % decline in AQI value, respectively (Sharma et al., 2020). The average AQI of Delhi, which was around 300-400, drastically reduced to 94, during the lockdown phase. According to Sentinel-5P satellite captured data, the NO2 concentration in India was reduced by almost 40-50% (Figure 1) across the major cities of India compared to the same time frame of the previous year (Lokhandwala and Gautam, 2020). During the initial lockdown period (16th March to 14th April 2020), in 22 cities of India PM10, PM2.5, carbon monoxide (CO) was reduced by 43, 31, and 10 %, respectively (Arora et al., 2020). In Delhi and Mumbai, PM2.5 was reduced by 35% and 14%, respectively when compared to March 2019 (Chauhan and Singh, 2020) and a similar pattern of PM2.5 reduction was also observed in other cities of India, (Table 3). Even in this year, due to the second wave of COVID-19, after the starting of lockdown in mid-April 2021, the air quality is similar to that of last year, when a nationwide lockdown was implemented in March 2020. The average PM2.5 for May of both years is almost identical at about 55-56 µg/m3. However, this value is about 42 percent lower than the value in May 2019, when there was no lockdown (India Today, 2021).

 

 

 

 

Table 1. Percentage of PM 2.5 Reduction in World’s Different Cities Due of COVID-19 Lockdown

City

% Reduction in PM 2.5

Time

Source

Newyork, USA

20%

Feb 2020 and Mar 2020

Chauhan and Singh, 2020

Los Angles, USA

30%

Feb 2020 and Mar 2020

Zaragoza, Spain

58%

Feb 2020 and Mar 2020

Rome, Italy

24%

Feb 2020 and Mar 2020

Dubai, UAE

11%

Mar 2019 and Mar 2020

Delhi, India

35%

Mar 2019 and Mar 2020

Dhaka, Bangladesh

24%

Feb 2020 and April 2020

Tehran, Iran

39%

Feb 2020 and April 2020

Rodríguez-Urrego & Rodríguez-Urrego, 2020

Astana, Kazakhstan

18%

Feb 2020 and April 2020

Santiago, Chile

10%

Feb 2020 and April 2020

 

Table 2. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) Emission data of Different Countries during Lockdown

City

% Reduction in PM 2.5

Time

Source

Delhi

35%

Mar 2019 and Mar 2020

Chauhan & Singh, 2020

Mumbai

14%

Chennai

32%

Mar- May 2019

and

Mar-May 2020

Kumar et al., 2020

Hydrabad

26%

Kolkata

24%

Jaipur

50.5%

Mar- May 2019

and

Mar-May 2020

Navinya et al., 2020

Lucknow

51.5%

Ahemedabad

67.7%

Nagpur

52.6%

Bangalore

45.4%

Chennai

30.2%