If you are living in a big city and feel like the air you breathe is suddenly cleaner and the skies are brighter instead of being tinted gray or clouded by heavy smog, you could be onto something. With lockdowns ordered to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus around the world, megacities have been keeping cars off the road and closing down factories, which in turn, has provided higher air quality and unveiled cities of their usual blanket of smog.
In Istanbul, in particular, air pollution has improved drastically. The city has recorded a 30% decrease in the last 10 days compared with averages from just two months prior, in January 2020. Air quality has improved so much that the city can now officially be considered as having “good,” rather than its previous “medium” rating of air quality.
However, this fall in air pollution rates should be alarming to humanity. The drop, which is being experienced due to limitations placed on industrial production, the suspension of most international flights and overall transportation, will rise again after the coronavirus threat disappears – unless, that is, the required measures are taken, according to a Turkish expert.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Hüseyin Toros, an expert on atmospheric science and air quality at Istanbul Technical University, said if a vaccine for coronavirus could be developed and the threat disappeared, the same activities that pollute the atmosphere would immediately start again.
"When the coronavirus threat disappears, the negative effects of air pollution on climate, environment and human health will continue, as we will return to our old habits," he said.
Citing a number of reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) on 7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution, Toros stressed that this issue still does not draw enough attention, mostly because air pollution does not cause immediate death, unlike cases of the coronavirus or an earthquake, for instance.
"We should continue to raise awareness about the environment, efficient use of resources and transitioning to renewable energy sources so that we can find solutions to climate change which will further intensify in the coming days," he said.
Many experts have warned that if we want to continue to keep the world's air at a safe level and sustain the progress we have made, we must target the source of the pollution.
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