(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.”
Never seen Dhauladar range from my home rooftop in Jalandhar..never could imagine that’s possible..clear indication of the impact the pollution has done by us to Mother Earth 🌍.. this is the view pic.twitter.com/laRzP8QsZ9
— Harbhajan Turbanator (@harbhajan_singh) April 3, 2020
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
As Marine Life Flees the Equator, Global Mass Extinction is Imminent: Scientists
The waters surrounding the equator are one of the most biodiverse areas in the globe, with the tropical area rich in marine life including rare sea turtles, whale sharks, manta rays, and other creatures.
However, rampant rises in temperate have led to a mass exodus of marine species from the sensitive region – with grave implications for life on earth.
While ecologists have long seen the thriving biodiversity of equatorial species holding constant in the past few centuries, a new study by Australian researchers published in The Conversation has found that warming global temperatures are now hitting the equator hard, potentially leading to an unprecedented mass extinction event.
The researchers from the Universities of Auckland, Queensland, and the Sunshine Coast found that as waters surrounding the equator continue to heat up, the ecosystem is being disrupted and forcing species to flee toward the cooler water of the South and North Pole.
The massive changes in marine ecosystems that this entails will have a grave impact not only on ocean life – essentially becoming invasive species in their new homes – but also on the human livelihoods that depend on it.
“When the same thing happened 252 million years ago, 90 percent of all marine species died,” the researchers wrote.
To see where marine life is headed, the researchers tracked the distribution of about 49,000 different species to see what their trajectory was. The global distribution of ocean life typically resembles a bell curve, with far fewer species near the poles and more near the equator.
However, the vast alteration of the curve is already in motion as creatures flee to the poles, according to a study they published in the journal PNAS.
These changes augur major disruptions to global ecosystem as marine life scrambles in a chaotic fight for food, space, and resources – with a mass die-off and extinction of creatures likely resulting.
The research underscores the dire need for human societies to control rampant climate change before the biodiversity and ecological health of the planet is pushed past the point of no return.
Japan Says Dumping Fukushima Radioactive Water in Pacific Ocean is Now “Unavoidable”
While Japan last month marked the 10th anniversary of the devastating 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami with solemn ceremonies, the government has also been stressing the successes of its recovery efforts in the country’s northeast.
In truth, however, the country is still coping with the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, which has already cost Japan trillions of yen and whose exclusion zone will require up to 40 more years to fully rehabilitate.
And with contaminated water continuing to build up at the ruined Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says that the government must finally begin dumping it into the Pacific Ocean.
With nuclear waste and fuel rods still contaminating the area, over one million tons of radioactive waste water continue to seep from the facility, according to The Japan Times, forcing authorities into what Suga describes as the “unavoidable” position of having to dump the water.
Officials claim that the water would be purified to the maximum extent possible, but environmentalist groups like Greenpeace warn that the water contains hazardous material that could damage human DNA and the health of marine life.
Fishers also fear that consumers will refuse to buy fish caught in contaminated waters, worsening their plight amid a restriction of imports from Fukushima prefecture imposed by 15 countries and regions.
Regardless, authorities argue they must deal with the cards that have been dealt.
“What to do with the [treated] water is a task that the government can no longer put off without setting a policy,” Japanese trade minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said on Wednesday.
Suga is expected to formally decide on the course of action by next Tuesday. If he proceeds, authorities will dilute tritium to 2.5 percent of the maximum concentration allowed by the country before it is dumped.
But while Japanese officials say that the water will be safe, it remains an open question whether people will trust their word.
Crowds Flock to Lava-Spewing Volcanoes in Italy, Iceland and Guatemala to Get Closer View
The year 2021 has so far been a particularly active time for volcanic eruptions. In February and March, three spectacular volcanic eruptions have occurred: the Fagradalsfjall volcano in Iceland, Mount Etna in Italy and Pacaya in Guatemala.
In each case, the eruptions have drawn large crowds of curious onlookers and sightseers.
In vivid video captured at Fagradalsfjall volcano on April 1, lava can be seen being spewed as amazed onlookers can be heard in the background. According to local reports, tens of thousands of people have been drawn to the area to view the eruption.
Iceland’s authorities are not anticipating evacuations due to the mile-and-a-half distance from the nearest road.
“We are monitoring the situation closely and as of now it is not considered a threat to surrounding towns,” said Iceland Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir. “We ask people to keep away from the immediate area and stay safe.”
Italy and Guatemala have also experienced a few volcanic eruptions this year.
On March 7, Sicilian villages were showered with ash and lava stone following the eruption of Mount Etna, which began its highly active phase in February.
The Pacaya volcano lying 30 miles south of the Guatemalan capital has also been extremely active since February.
Pacaya’s peak typically attracts tourists, but hikes are temporarily on hold due to the uptick in activity. Pacaya has a clear view of the nearby Volcano of Fire, whose lava flows in a 2018 eruption killed at least 110 people and left rougly 200 missing.
While volcano tourism provides a steady source of income for villages like nearby San Francisco de Sales, locals must balance this with the need to ensure their long-term safety.
So far, however, Pacaya has not yet injured locals.
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