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17 Nov, 2020 14:43

Lifting of Covid-19 lockdown led to surge in Russian air pollution, record number of extreme cases detected in September – study

Lifting of Covid-19 lockdown led to surge in Russian air pollution, record number of extreme cases detected in September – study

Russia has set new records for air pollution, seeing the largest number of cases of dirty air in the entire 16-year history of observations. Since the coronavirus lockdown was eased, incidents of contamination have rapidly grown.

That’s according to the consulting network FinExpertiza, which analyzed data from Roshydromet, Russia’s hydrometeorology and environmental monitoring service. Their results found that the number of pollutants in the atmosphere increased rapidly after the country’s regions removed measures imposed to fight coronavirus.

“Ahead of schedule, the incomplete year of 2020 broke the previous record for the number of cases of high and extremely high air pollution, becoming the ‘dirtiest’ in at least the last 16 years,” the report says. In the first three-quarters of this year, 171 cases of significantly high pollution were recorded. The whole of 2019 saw just 61.

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According to Moscow daily RBK, a ‘case’ is when a single substance is detected in the air at a rate of more than 10 times the amount permissible by law.

In spring, during the severest Covid-19 restrictions, air pollution was relatively low. Then, as the most stringent quarantine restrictions were lifted, the amount of air pollution began to grow sharply from month to month. As a result, despite having only two cases in the entirety of spring, 2020 has smashed the all-time record with three months still to go. According to the report, more high pollution cases were detected in September 2020 than the entirety of 2019.

In particular, the largest number of cases were discovered in Samara Region, an area known for its automotive and chemical industries. Samara is 1,000km east of Moscow, in central Russia.

“At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, it was often suggested that closing businesses and reducing traffic flow would have a positive impact on the environment,” said Elena Trubnikova, president of FinExpertiza, speaking to RBK. “However, in fact, the situation may not be so clear: the main industrial facilities continued to operate, while issues of compliance with environmental requirements may have taken a back seat during the pandemic.”

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