The people of Jalandhar could not believe their eyes. For the first time in decades, the inhabitants of the city in the northern Indian state of Punjab were able to see the mountains of the Dhauladhar Range in the Himalayas, which are more than 100 kilometers away and up to almost 6,000 meters high. Barely two weeks earlier, the Indian government had ordered one of the world’s strictest curfews due to the corona pandemic. Public and economic life in India has been largely at a standstill since 24 March. And the quality of the air has improved.
In the capital New Delhi, the particulate matter pollution has fallen by about half in the past three weeks. The otherwise omnipresent pall of smog has disappeared, as in many other Indian cities. And so the people of Jalandhar could suddenly see the Himalayas.
Good visibility also in Kathmandu
Also in the Kathmandu Valley many people might have rubbed their eyes in amazement at the moment. There, too, the nationwide lockdown due to the corona pandemic is leading to unusually clear, blue skies and an unobstructed view of the Himalayan mountains, which can usually only be enjoyed after leaving the valley in which the Nepalese capital is located.
Particulate matter levels in Kathmandu have improved, but still exceed the limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO) – and that although virtually no cars, buses and motorcycles are allowed to drive and no planes are allowed to fly. But the brick kilns in the valley continue to burn, as do the open fires. For two years now, it has been officially forbidden to burn rubbish in the Kathmandu Valley for environmental reasons. But the authorities have not enforced the ban. In a Nepalese research from 2019, Kathmandu was described as “a silent killer to walk around” due to the high level of air pollution.
It’s about more than just good visibility
And he seems to get along splendidly with another silent killer called coronavirus. A research by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the USA concluded that people in cities with high levels of pollution are at a significantly higher risk of dying of COVID-19 than people living in places with better air quality. Hopefully those responsible will learn the right lessons from this, and not only in Kathmandu or Jalandhar. It is about much more than just a better view of the mountains – however beautiful the panorama may be.