The world's largest coronavirus lockdown is having a dramatic impact on pollution in India

The world's largest lockdown means all factories, markets, shops, and places of worship are now closed, most public transport suspended and construction work halted, as India asks its citizens to stay home and practice social distancing. 

In the capital, New Delhi, government data shows the average concentration of PM 2.5 plunged by 71% in the space of a week -- falling from 91 microgram per cubic meter on March 20, to 26 on March 27, after the lockdown began. The World Health Organization considers anything above 25 to be unsafe.The data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), part of India's Environment Ministry, was collated by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).Nitrogen dioxide went from 52 per cubic meter to 15 in the same period -- also a 71% fall. Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore have also recorded a fall in these air pollutants.

The sudden fall in pollutants and the subsequent blue skies signal a dramatic shift for India -- which has 21 of the world's 30 most polluted cities, according to the IQAir AirVisual's 2019 World Air Quality Report. In November 2019, hundreds of Indians took to the streets in New Delhi to protest the levels of air pollution, after the city was blanketed in a dark yellow haze for several days.

But the impact of living in such badly polluted conditions has left a hidden problem for residents: a potential vulnerability to the coronavirus pandemic -- a severe respiratory disease. India has one of the highest rates of respiratory disease in the world, and the world's highest number of tuberculosis cases. Such widespread lung damage could potentially increase the risks associated with the coronavirus.

"Obviously, this is not the most ideal way to bring down air pollution, but it does prove that air pollution is manmade," Lavakare said. "It gives a lot of encouragement and hope that we can bring pollution down."said Jyoti Pande Lavakare, the co-founder of Indian environmental organization Care for Air, and author of upcoming book "Breathing Here is Injurious To Your Health."

The world's largest coronavirus lockdown is having a dramatic impact on pollution in India

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