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Himalayas Visible for First Time in 30 Years From Some Parts of India as Lockdown Sees Drop in Pollution

For many residents, the sight is something which they have never witnessed in their entire lives.

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(TMU) — For the first time in 30 years, India’s snow-covered Dhauladhar mountain range has become visible to locals as a result of plunging pollution levels resulting from measures taken to check the spread of the novel coronavirus.

For many residents, the sight of the Dhauladhar Range—which translates to “White Range” and forms part of the Himalayas—is something which they have never witnessed in their entire lives, reports SBS.

Many have been eager to share their feelings about it on social media, including former Indian cricket player Harbhajan Singh, who wrote:

“Never seen Dhauladar range from my home rooftop in Jalandhar. Never could imagine that’s possible. A clear indication of the impact the pollution has done by us to mother earth.” 

While anti-pollution activist Sant Balbir Singh Seeechewal told SBS:

“We can see the snow-covered mountains clearly from our roofs. And not just that, stars are visible at night. I have never seen anything like this in recent times.” 

India, a country with upwards of 1.3 billion residents, has been placed under a strict nationwide lockdown from March 22 until at least April 14. The draconian move limits the movement of the entire population, and has been criticized by rights groups as well as figures from private industry who claim that the measure is arbitrary and damages the country and its economy.

On Tuesday, the Economic Times published an opinion piece by auto company executive Rajiv Bajaj arguing that “virtually no country has imposed such a sweeping lockdown as India has; I continue to believe this makes India weak rather than stronger in combating the epidemic.”

However, the lockdown—which shut down factories, marketplaces, small shops, places of worship, most public transportation and construction projects—has also provided a temporary respite from the suffocating pollution levels India is known for. No less than 21 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities are in the South Asian giant.

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Seechewal explained:

“Not just normal traffic is off the roads, but most industry is also shut down. This has helped bring the pollution level to unbelievably low levels.”

According to CNN, government data has shown that India’s capital New Delhi has seen a 71 percent plunge of the harmful microscopic particulate matter known as PM 2.5. The particulate matter, which lodges deep into the lungs and passes into vital organs and the bloodstream, causes a number of serious risks to people’s health.

In the meantime, nitrogen dioxide spewed into the air by motor traffic and power plants has also fallen by 71 percent from 52 per cubic meter to 15 in the same period.

Similar drops in air pollutants have been registered in major cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, and Mumbai.

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Jyoti Pande Lavakare, the co-founder of Indian environmental organization Care for Air, told the network:

“I have not seen such blue skies in Delhi for the past 10 years …It is a silver lining in terms of this awful crisis that we can step outside and breathe.”

India is hardly alone in experiencing a vast improvement of air quality in association with government clampdowns meant to curb the spread of the pandemic.

From China to Europe and even the notoriously smoggy Los Angeles, business shutdowns and restrictions on movement have seen similar falls in nitrogen dioxide concentrations.

Seechewal is floored by the sharp drop in air pollution. He said:

“I had never imagined I would experience such a clean world around me. The unimaginable has happened. It shows nothing is impossible. We must work together to keep it like that.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Environment

Rare Snowfall in Sahara Desert Covers Sand Dunes in Ice

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Known primarily for being a searing and sandy wasteland, a part of the Sahara Desert has been blanketed in snowfall – an exceedingly rare, and dazzling, winter spectacle in the treacherous dunes of the desert.

On Monday, the sands surrounding the Algerian town of Ain Sefra were covered in the white powder after the area’s temperature plummeted far below freezing, reports the Daily Mail.

While the town has seen brutal heat that’s reached up to 136.4 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperatures reached the frosty depths of below 28 degrees Fahrenheit in recent days due to a high-pressure system of cold air that has moved into the region.

The resulting snowfall resulted in “stunning patterns” being strewn across the sandy expanse, according to the report.

Brilliant photos of the event were captured by photographer Karim Bouchetata, who travelled to the North African locale, which has been dubbed the “Gateway to the Sahara” and is surrounded by the Atlas Mountains some 3,000 feet above sea level.

Prior snowfall is only known to have occurred four times in the past 42 years: in 1979, 2016, 2018 and 2021.

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The Notorious ‘Gateway to Hell’ May Finally Be Sealed, Turkmenistan’s President Says

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The Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan has long been host to what has been dubbed the “Gateway to Hell” – a massive hole in the ground that has been smoldering for about five decades.

However, the country’s government is now moving to finally extinguish the blazing natural Darvaza gas crater which lies in the center of the huge Karakum desert.

This isn’t the first time that President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has spoken of extinguishing the so-called portal to the underworld. In 2010, the strongman leader also ordered that experts investigate how best to put out the flames, which have been raging since a mishandled Soviet drilling expedition in 1971.

To prevent a disaster resulting from the spread of dangerous fumes, Soviet authorities decided it would be best to burn off the gas by setting it alight.

As a result, the 229-foot (70 meter) wide and 65-foot (20-meter) deep crater has been ablaze ever since, drawing tourists to the former Soviet country.

In 2018, the government officially renamed the pit the “Shining of Karakum.”

This week, Berdymukhamedov decried how the gas crater “negatively affects both the environment and the health of the people living nearby,” reports AFP.

“We are losing valuable natural resources for which we could get significant profits and use them for improving the well-being of our people,” he added in the televised statement, noting that officials must “find a solution to extinguish the fire.”

Turkmenistan is known to possess the fourth-largest known reserve of natural gas in the world, reports VICE, and its economy is dependent on the export of the raw resource.

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