The flip side
Aside from monotony and despair, the lockdown has also brought with it clear skies, pleasant weather and a possibility of reducing seasonal, pollution-induced illnesses
If anyone observes keenly, it will be noticed that the evening temperatures in Hyderabad are not as bad as they used to be in the preceding years. Those who sit on their balconies in the evenings, instead of a hot breeze as was the case in the past, we are now experiencing a somewhat cool breeze. During the 1960s and 70s in the pollution-free Hyderabad, the weather was more or less like this. Pleasant evenings and nights all through the year were the order of the day then. Light drizzle in the evening was a routine feature pushing every individual to cover the body with a bedsheet even during midsummer. In the recent past too, almost akin to those days, though there is no drizzle every day, no one uses an AC. This may be due to the change in the weather condition or could be an effect of the Coronavirus linked lockdown forcing people to confine themselves to four walls, thereby, indirectly making Hyderabad pollution-free, emission-free and radiation-free once again.
New York Times reported that in one of the most polluted cities on earth, New Delhi, where many people routinely wear face masks to filter out the filth, something rare and wonderful has emerged, a pure blue sky. Because there are so few cars on the road, few factories belching out black smoke and almost no active construction sites to create clouds of choking dust, pollution levels in New Delhi, India's megalopolis capital, have dropped to remarkably low levels.
While this is so, the world scenario is also all the same. According to Martha Henriques who contributes to BBC, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have fallen across continents as countries try to contain the spread of the Coronavirus. Within months of the appearance of COVID-19, the world has transformed into a unique symbol of environmental change. For the billions of people who have not caught the disease, there is a significant change in their entire way of life and for many, for the better.
The streets of Wuhan were deserted after authorities implemented a strict lockdown. In Italy, extensive travel restrictions are in place. In London, the normally bustling pubs, bars and theatres have been closed and people have been told to stay home. Worldwide, flights are being cancelled or turning around in mid-air, as the aviation industry buckles and folds.
As industries, transport networks and businesses have closed down, a sudden drop in carbon emissions has followed. The environment is clearly benefiting in some interesting and unexpected ways over the last few months, a blessing in disguise, thanks to this lockdown.
With many people around the world self-isolating, voluntarily or by official edict, some major cities are also seeing their air quality improve. Traffic levels, with no public or private transport on roads, are also significantly down and as a result, carbon monoxide emissions have also dropped.
As more and more people are put under lockdown around the world, energy consumption profiles in buildings are being disrupted. With many people now working from home, domestic energy consumption is predicted to have risen sharply. Conversely, with fewer people in commercial and workplace buildings, their energy consumption should fall steeply. This will ultimately save energy as the increase in domestic use is more than compensated for by the larger drop in commercial use. This also has the knock-on effect of reducing the consumption of polluting fuels in power stations as demand falls.
In addition, environment-related seasonal diseases are also on the decline and almost negligible. According to a leading Pulmonologist and Allergy Specialist, Dr Vyakaranam, nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide cause extensive damage to lungs, heart and brain cells.
Since the implementation of the various lockdowns, such pollutants and more are on the decline and, as a result, diseases related to them are declining as well. This is, at the very least, the case with illnesses being reported either in private dispensaries or in any government or private hospital in Hyderabad and also in other major cities.
In the 1970s, Hyderabad was known as the 'City of Lakes' with cool and comfortable weather. Even in the peak of summer, Hyderabad city was the only place where people never suffered hot and humid weather and there was no sweating. The resurgence of such pleasant weather is a welcome sign of change, even if the causation factor is one as grim as a lockdown. But. as wisdom holds, every adversary has a positive impact. Due to the fear of Coronavirus spread and subsequent lockdown, Hyderabad city seems to have rediscovered its glorious past as far as weather is concerned. For the past several days, one can feel the pleasant mornings and equally pleasant evenings with cool breeze. People have been unexpectedly experiencing a wonderful interaction with their environment, a matter of some relief in the otherwise oppressive days. Call it a blessing in disguise as all those who lived in the glorious 70s of Hyderabad are once again experiencing it with a touch of nostalgia. Hyderabadis, without actually asking for it in times of climate change, have gotten a glimpse at what used to be a given in terms of the environment and weather in Hyderabad. It reminds one of Kishore Kumar's everlasting hit song in 'Door ka Rahi' film, 'Koi Lauta De Mere Beete Huye Din', meaning, someone please bring back my bygone days. This is a symbol of hope for people to find meaning and gain even in the worst of times.
The writer is Chief Public Relations Officer to Chief Minister of Telangana. Views expressed are strictly personal