Unprecedented Reduction in Air Pollution and Corresponding Short-term Premature Mortality Associated with COVID-19 Lockdown in Delhi, India

Kamal Maji*, Anil Namdeo, Margaret Bell, Paul Goodman, S. M. Shiva Nagendra, Joanna H. Barnes, Laura De Vito, Enda Hayes, James Longhurst, Rakesh Kumar, Niraj Sharma, Sudheer Kumar Kuppili, V. Dheeraj Alshetty

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Countries around the world introduced strict restrictions on movement and activities known as ‘lockdowns’ to restrict the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from the end of 2019. A sudden improvement in air quality was observed globally as a result of these lockdowns. To provide insight into the changes in air pollution levels in response to the COVID-19 restrictions we have compared surface air quality data in Delhi during four phases of lockdown and the first phase of the restriction easing period (25 March to 30 June 2020) with data from a baseline period (2018–2019). Simultaneously, short-term exposure of PM 2.5 and O 3 attributed premature mortality were calculated to understand the health benefit of the change in air quality. Ground–level observations in Delhi showed that concentrations of PM 10, PM 2.5 and NO 2 dropped substantially in 2020 during the overall study period compared with the same period in previous years, with average reductions of ~49%, ~39%, and ~39%, respectively. An overall lower reduction in O 3 of ~19% was observed for Delhi. A slight increase in O 3 was found in Delhi’s industrial and traffic regions. The highest peak of the diurnal variation decreased substantially for all the pollutants at every phase. The decrease in PM 2.5 and O 3 concentrations in 2020, prevented 904 total premature deaths, a 60% improvement when compared to the figures for 2018–2019. The restrictions on human activities during the lockdown have reduced anthropogenic emissions and subsequently improved air quality and human health in one of the most polluted cities in the world. Implications: I am submitting herewith the manuscript entitled “Unprecedented Reduction in Air Pollution and Corresponding Short-term Premature Mortality Associated with COVID-19 Forced Confinement in Delhi, India” for potential publishing in your journal. The novelty of this research lies in: (1) we utilized ground-level air quality data in Delhi during four phases of lockdown and the first phase of unlocking period (25 th March to 30 th June) for 2020 as well as data from the baseline period (2018–2019) to provide an early insight into the changes in air pollution levels in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, (2) Chatarize the change of diurnal variation of the pollutants and (3) we assess the health risk due to PM 2.5 and O 3. Results from ground-level observations in Delhi showed that concentrations of PM 10, PM 2.5 and NO 2 substantially dropped in 2020 during the overall study period compared to the similar period in previous years, with an average reduction of ~49%, ~39%, and ~39%, respectively. In the case of O 3, the overall reduction was observed as ~19% in Delhi, while a slight increase was found in industrial and traffic regions. And consequently, the highest peak of the diurnal variation decreased substantially for all the pollutants. The health impact assessment of the changes in air quality indicated that 904 short-term premature deaths (~60%) were prevented due to the decline in PM 2.5 and O 3 concentrations in the study period. The restrictions on human activities during the lockdown have reduced the anthropogenic emissions and subsequently improved air quality and human health in one of the most polluted cities in the world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1085-1101
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Air and Waste Management Association
Volume71
Issue number9
Early online date15 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2021

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