People in India see Himalayas for first time in ‘decades’ as lockdown eases pollution

The Dhauladhar range of mountains is visible from the city due to a drop in pollution levels. (Credit: Pardeep Pandit/Hindustan Times/Getty Images via CNN)

People in the northern Indian state of Punjab are reacting with awe at the sight of the Himalayan mountain range, which is now visible from more than 100 miles away due to the reduction in air pollution caused by the country’s coronavirus lockdown.

Indians in the city of Jalandhar and the surrounding area have posted photos online of the views from their homes, with some saying they haven’t seen the peaks of the Himalayas for decades.

“For the first time in almost 30 years (I) could clearly see the Himalayas due to India’s lockdown clearing air pollution. Just amazing,” Manjit Kang wrote.

The phenomenon is made possible by a dramatic improvement in air quality in recent weeks after industries shut down, cars came off the road and airlines canceled flights in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Delhi saw up to a 44% reduction in PM10 air pollution levels on the first day of its restrictions, India’s Central Pollution Control Board found. The PM10 standard measures airborne particulates 10 micrometers or smaller in diameter.

The report said that, in total, 85 cities across India saw less air pollution in the first week of the nationwide lockdown.

Meanwhile, the air quality in Jalandhar, which sits more than 100 miles from the Himalayas, has been measured as “good” on the country’s national index for 16 of the 17 days since the nationwide lockdown was announced.

By contrast, the same 17-day period last year failed to register a single day of “good” air quality — and in the first 17 days of March this year, only three days saw “good” air quality.

The period has therefore marked an unintended but welcome breath of fresh air for the country’s crowded and polluted cities. India is home to 21 of the 30 worst polluted urban areas in the world, according to data compiled in IQAir AirVisual’s 2019 World Air Quality Report, with six in the top ten.

The nation has been in lockdown for more than two weeks, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordering “a total ban on venturing out of your homes.”

Only essential services have been operational, including water, electricity, health and fire services, grocery stores and municipal services. All other shops, commercial establishments, factories, workshops, offices, markets and places of worship have been closed and interstate buses and metros were be suspended.

The country has reported nearly 6,000 cases of COVID-19, and 178 deaths, according to figures from the Johns Hopkins University.

While the famous mountain range is more visible than in recent memory, it is also more deserted.

Many of its mountains have been closed to climbers for nearly a month, with both the Nepalese and Chinese sides of Mount Everest shutting down in early March.

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