While the world grapples with the novel coronavirus, the pandemic is having some unexpected but positive side effects. The slowdown in human activity due to the pandemic, has so far been shown to have had a positive impact on the planet.
With large parts of Italy on lockdown, pictures have emerged on a Facebook group, Venizia Pulita (Clean Venice), of Venice’s canals showing signs of improvement. Usually very murky waters, the canals have become much clearer, to the extent that the fish living inside are now visible. Not only are the fish visible, white swans have now replaced the famous gondolas, floating across the cleaner waters.
While these images have been showing signs of improvement, the Venice mayor’s office had this to say:
‘The water now looks clearer because there is less traffic on the canals, allowing the sediment to stay at the bottom. However, the air is less polluted since there are less vaporetto and boat traffic than usual because of the restricted movement of residents.’
In China, where the first cases of coronavirus were detected, a massive decline in pollution and greenhouse gases have now been recorded. Satellite images on NASA’s website show how the decrease in industrial, business and transportation activity between January and February 2020 has reduced the levels of atmospheric nitrogen dioxide (No2) first in Wuhan and then across the country. "This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event," Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, said in a statement.
Liu said that in the recent past there have been other incidents which had led to a significant decrease in NO2 levels, noting the 2008 economic recession as one of them. But none of them have seen a drop so acute. Liu also said that there is usually a noticeable drop-off during Chinese celebrations of the Lunar New Year, but again it’s never before been this sharp.
"This year, the reduction rate is more significant than in past years and it has lasted longer," she said. "I am not surprised because many cities nationwide have taken measures to minimize spread of the virus." According to China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment ‘good quality, air days’ have increased by 21.5 % in February.
These improvements in nature, albeit due to human restriction, are inevitably something to take note of. If there is one thing this pandemic has proven it is that human activity is the foremost cause of pollution on earth. This is proof that if we want, the human race can work together towards a sustainable future.