Earth Day: Coronavirus lockdown cleans world's most polluted cities in India

As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, air in some of the worst polluted Indian cities has become cleaner, with pollution levels dropping drastically due to the coronavirus lockdown.

The average particle matter (PM 2.5) in the air decreased by 22%.

The average nitrogen dioxide - which comes from burning fossil fuels - dropped by 15%, according to air pollution data analysed by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, an environment think tank working on health impacts of air pollution.

This drastic change in air quality has happened because of the total shutting down of country due to the restrictions put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Cleaner air is apparent near the River Ganges. Credit: AP

During this national lockdown period Balbhadra Agarwala, an octogenarian and resident of Delhi wakes up to see a clean shade of blue sky and stars in the night.

"Air is much fresher and I can feel purity in it," he said.

A massive drop in air pollution and clean air is apparent across Indian cities and this unprecedented situation has happened due to virus lockdown of 1.3 billion people.

Despite the number of Covid-19 cases surpassing 20,000 and the 652 deaths in India, the clean air has brought some joy to those who are confined to their homes.

The reduction in air pollution is rare for India, which at the end of 2019, was reported as home to six of the world's 10 most-polluted cities.

India’s capital New Delhi was the world’s most polluted capital for the second year running in 2019, according to IQ AirVisual, a Swiss group that gathers air quality data globally.

Snowcapped Dhauladhar range of the Himalaya are clearly visible during lockdown because of cleaner air. Credit: AP

During winter months the sky in Delhi turns into thick grey smog which had even forced the government to close down schools and reduce vehicle pollution by cutting down number of cars on roads.

With a complete halt in Industrial activities one of India’s most polluted river has also become clean.

India's Central Pollution Control Board said the water in the Ganges, India's longest river, had become fit for bathing. This was deduced with the help of real-time monitors placed along the river.

The report cited a decrease in runoff from 28 industrial clusters, and a reduction in dumping of rubbish, as some of the biggest reasons for the improved water quality.