A study carried out by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board on the impact of the lockdown says the slowdown has had a direct positive impact on almost all vital environmental parameters, except for biomedical waste.
Air quality has improved, as all other markers, including pollutant load, have shown a consistent reduction of 60 per cent during the entire phase of lockdown.
In many places, the grinding to a halt of industry has yielded glimpses of a cleaner world, with many reports of exceptional blue skies, says the MPCB report.
Similarly, hazardous waste generation due to restricted industrial activity reduced pressure on its handling by 75 per cent on an average. Emission from construction was extremely marginal, with only 21 tonnes per day during pre- COVID-19, while in Phase 4 of the lockdown, it was 8 TPD, due to limited activity because of resource constraints.
Mass generation of waste diminished as shopping malls, hotels and restaurants and other leisure spots were closed. However, people appear to be consuming an equal volume of goods at their respective homes, discreetly. The reduction in waste was observed mostly due to the closure of public places and population reduction, as lakhs of migrants left the state during this time.
Even with all the 9,000-odd industries allowed to operate during various phases of the lockdown, the total fuel consumption had drastically reduced and this translated into emission reductions.
"‘The only contrary negative impact on environmental attributes is of biomedical waste management (BMW). The increase in the number of COVID-19 patients resulted in a surge in BMW generation to the tune of 90.6 TPD. This seems to have almost increased by 45% from the average 62.5 TPD quantity during pre-COVID-19 times,'' according to the MPCB report.
The MPCB suggested that adaption was quintessential for local bodies and administration, to be able to cope with the increasing demand for effective BMW management. During 2019, on an average, about 62.13MT bio-medical waste was treated and disposed of per day.
On the other hand, the migration of almost 65 per cent of the population (about 19 lakhs), limited industrial workforce and the extremely restricted commercial, hotels and restaurants, as well as marketplace activity, reduced the load of solid waste management (SWM) by 58 per cent during Phases 1 and 2 of the lockdown, while it was 44 per cent and 35 per cent respectively during the subsequent Phases 3 and 4.
Of the six river basins, it was found that almost all of the basins showed improvement in the water quality, in terms of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) at 84 per cent of the locations, chemical oxygen demand (COD) at almost 65 per cent of the locations (Tapi, Godavari, west-flowing rivers and nallahs basins), whereas the other two river basins showed improvement at 30 per cent of locations.