JDR Vol.16 No.1 pp. 88-96
doi: 10.20965/jdr.2021.p0088


Air Pollutants During COVID-19 Lockdown Period in India

Vignesh K. S. and Padma Venkatasubramanian

School of Public Health, SRM Institute of Science and Technology
Kattankulathur, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 603203, India

Corresponding author

November 20, 2020
December 10, 2020
January 30, 2021
COVID-19, air pollutants, satellite imagery, temporal variations, geo-statistics

Recent studies have indicated that certain atmospheric pollutants had significantly reduced in several countries during the lockdown period imposed to curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2-Virus. The Government of India declared the first lockdown from the end of March 2020, which continued till June 2020 in most Indian states. The present study compares the air quality indicators nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and ozone (O3) across India, during the months of March–August 2020 and the same period in 2019. The application of satellite information from NASA – Ozone Monitoring Instrument and Atmospheric Infrared Sounder were used to compare the quantum of air pollutants. The temporal variation of the air pollutants was studied using satellite imagery and geo-statistics on a monthly, national average basis, to assess the overall impact of the lockdown. NO2, SO2, and O3 showed some level of reduction during the period of study in 2020 when compared to 2019, whereas CO levels had gone up in 2020. NO2, a pollutant mainly arising from motor vehicle combustion, reduced by 3.98–12.1% in 2020 as compared to the same study period in 2019 and in April 2020, when there was a complete lockdown, it had dropped maximally (by 12.1%). The reduction in SO2 levels in 2020 ranged from around 0.5–9% but only during April–June 2020, whereas there was an increase in March, July, and August 2020 when compared to 2019. Despite a reduction in NO2, the O3 levels (which are dependent on NO2 levels) saw an increase in the atmosphere during March–May 2020 by 1.9–5%, and decreased during June–August 2020. The CO levels in the atmosphere did not reduce during lockdown; instead, it peaked in March, April, and May 2020, when compared to 2019, possibly due to incomplete combustion of materials containing carbon materials like wood, plastics, etc. This study demonstrates that it is possible to rapidly reduce atmospheric pollution in India. However, since the level of certain pollutants like O3 are dependent on others like NO2, reducing the atmospheric pollution globally is a sustained and concerted effort by all concerned.

Cite this article as:
Vignesh K. S. and Padma Venkatasubramanian, “Air Pollutants During COVID-19 Lockdown Period in India,” J. Disaster Res., Vol.16, No.1, pp. 88-96, 2021.
Data files:
  1. [1] M. J. Molina and L. T. Molina, “Megacities and Atmospheric Pollution,” J. Air Waste Manag. Assoc., Vol.54, Issue 6, pp. 644-680, doi: 10.1080/10473289.2004.10470936, 2004.
  2. [2] U. Irfan, “Why India’s air pollution is so horrendous,” 2018, [accessed November 17, 2020].
  3. [3] Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) Center, “Air Quality in Asia: Status and Trends, 2010 Edition,” 2010, [accessed November 18, 2020]
  4. [4] “India Home to Three of the Largest NO2 Emission Hotspots: Greenpeace,” [accessed November 17, 2020]
  5. [5] United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “Clear the air for children – The impact of air pollution on children,” 2016.
  6. [6] S. Muhammad, X. Long, and M. Salman, “COVID-19 pandemic and environmental pollution: A blessing in disguise?,” Sci. Total Environ., Vol.728, Article No.138820, doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.138820, 2020.
  7. [7] S. Lokhandwala and P. Gautam, “Indirect impact of COVID-19 on environment: A brief study in Indian context,” Environ. Res., Vol.188, Article No.109807, doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2020.109807, 2020.
  8. [8] S. S. Lim et al., “A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990–2010: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010,” The Lancet, Vol.380, Issue 9859, pp. 2224-2260, doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61766-8, 2012.
  9. [9] J. Lelieveld, J. S. Evans, M. Fnais, D. Giannadaki, and A. Pozzer, “The contribution of outdoor air pollution sources to premature mortality on a global scale,” Nature, Vol.525, No.7569, pp. 367-371, doi: 10.1038/nature15371, 2015.
  10. [10] Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, “National Air Quality Index,” [accessed November 17, 2020]
  11. [11] P. J. Crutzen, “Tropospheric Ozone: An Overview,” I. S. A. Isaksen (Ed.), “Tropospheric Ozone: Regional and Global Scale Interactions,” pp. 3-32, D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1988.
  12. [12] K. Xiao, Y. Wang, G. Wu, B. Fu, and Y. Zhu, “Spatiotemporal characteristics of air pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, SO2, NO2, O3, and CO) in the Inland Basin City of Chengdu, Southwest China,” Atmosphere, Vol.9, No.2, Article No.74, doi: 10.3390/atmos9020074, 2018.
  13. [13] R. D. Peng et al., “Emergency Admissions for Cardiovascular and Respiratory Diseases and the Chemical Composition of Fine Particle Air Pollution,” Environ. Health Perspect., Vol.117, No.6, pp. 957-963, doi: 10.1289/ehp.0800185, 2009.
  14. [14] J. M. Yoo et al., “Spatiotemporal variations of air pollutants (O3, NO2, SO2, CO, PM10, and VOCs) with land-use types,” Atmos. Chem. Phys, Vol.15, Issue 18, pp. 10857-10885, doi: 10.5194/acp-15-10857-2015, 2015.
  15. [15] S. Maji, S. Ahmed, W. A. Siddiqui, and S. Ghosh, “Short term effects of criteria air pollutants on daily mortality in Delhi, India,” Atmos. Environ., Vol.150, pp. 210-219, doi: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2016.11.044, 2017.
  16. [16] M. Dadras, H. Z. M. Shafri, N. Ahmad, B. Pradhan, and S. Safarpour, “Spatio-temporal analysis of urban growth from remote sensing data in Bandar Abbas city, Iran,” Egypt. J. Remote Sens. Sp. Sci., Vol.18, Issue 1, pp. 35-52, doi: 10.1016/j.ejrs.2015.03.005, 2015.
  17. [17] K. Kushwaha and R. Goyal, “Methodology for the estimation of groundwater flux across simplified boundary using GIS and groundwater levels,” Curr. Sci., Vol.110, No.6, pp. 1050-1058, 2016.
  18. [18] G. M. Philip and D. F. Watson, “Geostatistics and spatial data analysis,” Math. Geol, Vol.18, Issue 5, pp. 505-509, doi: 10.1007/BF00897504, 1986.
  19. [19] C. I. Alvarez-Mendoza, A. C. Teodoro, N. Torres, and V. Vivanco, “Assessment of Remote Sensing Data to Model PM10 Estimation in Cities with a Low Number of Air Quality Stations: A Case of Study in Quito, Ecuador,” Environments, Vol.6, Issue 7, Article No.85, doi: 10.3390/environments6070085, 2019.
  20. [20] R. M. Hoff and S. A. Christopher, “Remote Sensing of Particulate Pollution from Space: Have We Reached the Promised Land?,” J. Air Waste Manag. Assoc., Vol.59, Issue 6, pp. 645-675, doi: 10.3155/1047-3289.59.6.645, 2012.
  21. [21] C. W. Spicer, D. V. Kenny, G. F. Ward, I. H. Billick, and N. P. Leslie, “Evaluation of NO2 Measurement Methods for Indoor Air Quality Applications,” Air & Waste, Vol.44, Issue 2, pp. 163-168, doi: 10.1080/1073161X.1994.10467245, 1994.
  22. [22] D. F. Watson and G. M. Philip, “A refinement of inverse distance weighted interpolation,” Geo-Processing, Vol.2, No.4, pp. 315-327, 1985.
  23. [23] A. Ziauddin and N. A. Siddiqui, “Air Quality Index (AQI) – A tool to determine ambient air quality,” Pollut. Res., Vol.25, No.4, pp. 885-887, 2007.
  24. [24] A. P. Dadhich, R. Goyal, and P. N. Dadhich, “Assessment of spatio-temporal variations in air quality of Jaipur city, Rajasthan, India,” Egypt. J. Remote Sens. Sp. Sci., Vol.21, Issue 2, pp. 173-181, doi: 10.1016/j.ejrs.2017.04.002, 2018.
  25. [25] A. K. Gorai, P. B. Tchounwou, and G. Mitra, “Spatial Variation of Ground Level Ozone Concentrations and its Health Impacts in an Urban Area in India,” Aerosol Air Qual. Res., Vol.17, Issue 4, pp. 951-964, doi: 10.4209/aaqr.2016.08.0374, 2017.
  26. [26] M. A. Akbarzadeh et al., “The association between exposure to air pollutants including PM10, PM2.5, ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide concentration and the relative risk of developing STEMI: A case-crossover design,” Environ. Res., Vol.161, pp. 299-303, doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2017.11.020, 2018.
  27. [27] B. Brunekreef and S. T. Holgate, “Air pollution and health,” The Lancet, Vol.360, Issue 9341, pp. 1233-1242, doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(02)11274-8, 2002.
  28. [28] R. Rückerl, A. Schneider, S. Breitner, J. Cyrys, and A. Peters, “Health effects of particulate air pollution: A review of epidemiological evidence,” Inhal. Toxicol., Vol.23, Issue 10, pp. 555-592, doi: 10.3109/08958378.2011.593587, 2011.
  29. [29] V. A., G. Singh, and D. V. Reddy, “Air quality assessment of Dhanbad District, India – A case study,” Int. J. Earth Sci. Eng, Vol.3, No.3, pp. 409-415, 2010.
  30. [30] D. A. Chu et al., “Global monitoring of air pollution over land from the Earth Observing System-Terra Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS),” J. Geophys. Res.: Atmospheres, Vol.108, Issue D21, Article No.4661, doi: 10.1029/2002JD003179, 2003.
  31. [31] D. A. Chu, “Analysis of the relationship between MODIS aerosol optical depth and PM2.5 in the summertime U.S.,” Proc. of the SPIE Optics + Photonics, Vol.6299, Article No.629903, doi: 10.1117/12.678841, 2006.
  32. [32] N. Kumar, A. Chu, and A. Foster, “Remote sensing of ambient particles in Delhi and its environs: estimation and validation,” Int. J. Remote Sens., Vol.29, Issue 12, pp. 3383-3405, doi: 10.1080/01431160701474545, 2014.
  33. [33] N. I. Sifakis, “Quantitative mapping of air pollution density using Earth observations: a new processing method and application to an urban area,” Int. J. Remote Sens., Vol.19, Issue 17, pp. 3289-3300, doi: 10.1080/014311698213975, 1998.
  34. [34] S. D. Ghude, S. Fadnavis, G. Beig, S. D. Polade, and R. J. van der A, “Detection of surface emission hot spots, trends, and seasonal cycle from satellite-retrieved NO2 over India,” J. Geophys. Res.: Atmospheres, Vol.113, Issue D20, Article No.D20305, doi: 10.1029/2007JD009615, 2008.
  35. [35] P. S. Mahapatra, S. Panda, P. P. Walvekar, R. Kumar, T. Das, and B. R. Gurjar, “Seasonal trends, meteorological impacts, and associated health risks with atmospheric concentrations of gaseous pollutants at an Indian coastal city,” Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res., Vol.21, Issue 19, pp. 11418-11432, doi: 10.1007/s11356-014-3078-2, 2014.
  36. [36] The New Indian Express, “Significant improvement across India in air quality during lockdown: CPCB report,” [accessed November 18, 2020]
  37. [37] A. Adhikari, N. Goregaonkar, R. Narayanan, N. Panicker, and N. Ramamoorthy, “Manufactured Maladies: Lives and Livelihoods of Migrant Workers During COVID-19 Lockdown in India,” Indian J. Labour Econ., doi: 10.1007/s41027-020-00282-x, 2020.
  38. [38] B. H. Henderson et al., “Evaluation of simulated photochemical partitioning of oxidized nitrogen in the upper troposphere,” Atmos. Chem. Phys., Vol.11, Issue 1, pp. 275-291, doi: 10.5194/acp-11-275-2011, 2011.
  39. [39] E. Marino, M. Caruso, D. Campagna, and R. Polosa, “Impact of air quality on lung health: Myth or reality?,” Ther. Adv. Chronic Dis., Vol.6, No.5, pp. 286-298, doi: 10.1177/2040622315587256, 2015.
  40. [40] H. K. Lee et al., “The relationship between SO2 exposure and plant physiology: A mini review,” Hortic. Environ. Biotechnol., Vol.58, Issue 6, pp. 523-529, doi: 10.1007/s13580-017-0053-0, 2017.
  41. [41] H. He et al., “Mineral dust and NOx promote the conversion of SO2 to sulfate in heavy pollution days,” Sci. Rep., Vol.4, Issue 1, Article No.4172, doi: 10.1038/srep04172, 2014.
  42. [42] Z. Qian et al., “Short-Term Effects of Gaseous Pollutants on Cause-Specific Mortality in Wuhan, China,” J. Air Waste Manag. Assoc., Vol.57, Issue 7, pp. 785-793, doi: 10.3155/1047-3289.57.7.785, 2007.
  43. [43] P. Janoska and S. Sanyal, “Sustainable development and energy policy in India’s Covid-19 recovery,” 2020, [accessed December 4, 2020]
  44. [44] H. Pikhart et al., “Outdoor sulphur dioxide and respiratory symptoms in Czech and Polish school children: A small-area study (SAVIAH),” Int. Arch. Occup. Environ. Health, Vol.74, Issue 8, pp. 574-578, doi: 10.1007/s004200100266, 2001.
  45. [45] L. C. Martins, M. R. D. O. de Oliveira Latorre, P. H. N. Saldiva, and A. L. F. Braga, “Air Pollution and Emergency Room Visits Due to Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases in the Elderly: An Ecological Time-Series Study in São Paulo, Brazil,” J. Occup. Environ. Med., Vol.44, Issue 7, pp. 622-627, doi: 10.1097/00043764-200207000-00006, 2002.
  46. [46] V. Rapp, N. Killingsworth, P. Therkelsen, and R. Evans, “4 – Lean-Burn Internal Combustion Engines,” D. Dunn-Rankin and P. Therkelsen (Eds.), “Lean Combustion: Technology and Control,” 2nd Edition, pp. 111-146, Academic Press, Elsevier Inc., 2016.
  47. [47] B. G. Miller, “3 – The Effect of Coal Usage on Human Health and the Environment,” B. G. Miller (Ed.), “Clean Coal Engineering Technology,” pp. 85-132, Butterworth-Heinemann, Elsevier Inc., 2011.
  48. [48] S. Panda, C. Mallik, J. Nath, T. Das, and B. Ramasamy, “A study on variation of atmospheric pollutants over Bhubaneswar during imposition of nationwide lockdown in India for the COVID-19 pandemic,” Air Qual. Atmos. Heal, doi: 10.1007/s11869-020-00916-5, 2020.
  49. [49] The Hindu, “Ozone pollution spiked in several cities during lockdown: CSE,” [accessed November 18, 2020]
  50. [50] D. Nuvolone, D. Petri, and F. Voller, “The effects of ozone on human health,” Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res, Vol.25, Issue 9, pp. 8074-8088, doi: 10.1007/s11356-017-9239-3, 2018.

*This site is desgined based on HTML5 and CSS3 for modern browsers, e.g. Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, Opera.

Last updated on Mar. 01, 2021