Speed Reads

unexpected consequences

New Delhi's pollution reading can sometimes hit 500 on the Air Quality Index. Last week it recorded a reading of 38.

New Delhi's citizens 'can't believe' how quickly their city's air quality has improved during India's national novel coronavirus lockdown, The New York Times reports.

With people off the roads, flights grounded, and factories shuttered, New Delhi has experienced a remarkable turnaround when it comes to pollution. On bad days, the city's Air Quality Index — which measures different airborne pollutants — can register a reading of 500 or higher, essentially maxing out the scale. When that number hits 150, it's reportedly considered a good day. Last week, the AQI was at 38.

Lockdowns across the world have helped lead to cleaner environments, but it's been especially notable in India, which is home to 14 of the 20 cities in the world with the most hazardous air.

Many people who suffer from chronic coughs and more serious lung diseases because of the pollution have said their health has improved, the Times reports. "They are feeling lighter, they are using their inhalers less frequently, most of them are feeling better," said Dr. Arvind Kamar, a Dehli chest surgeon.

It's not likely to last, however. Delhi and other metropolises around India will eventually open back up when the pandemic eases, but environmentalists in India are still hoping the rapid improvement proves a point, even if the measures that led to it are extreme. "Clearly, this is not something that can't be reversed," said activist Jai Dhar Gupta. "We've just reversed it." Read more at The New York Times.