Clearer water, cleaner air: The environmental effects of coronavirus

Venice, Italy.
Venice, Italy. © AFP / FRANCE 24

From crystal clear waters in the canals of Venice to dramatic falls in pollution levels in major cities, the coronavirus pandemic has had a number of positive effects on the environment as millions across the world are placed under lockdown.


The crowds of tourists who normally swarm the Venice canals are gone and the number of motorboats vastly reduced.

As a consequence, the normally polluted waters of the canals are clearer than at any time many locals can remember.

"The canal is definitely clearer, you just have to look at the canal when water is very calm. There are no boats, there is no traffic. Definitely it is cleaner," said Venice resident Serguei Michtchenk.

It is just one of the possibly beneficial effects on the environment of the coronavirus pandemic.

In cities across the world, the streets have emptied of people and vehicles, factories have shut down and flights have been grounded.

In China, satellite images from NASA and the European Space Agency have shown a significant decrease in nitrogen dioxide pollution in the early months of this year after much of the country went into lockdown.

A similar effect has been seen in northern Italy. While in New York, scientists at Columbia University reported a 5-10 percent drop in CO2 emissions this week as traffic levels fell 35 percent.

But the environmental benefits could be short-lived. China this week began reopening factories in Hubei province as the country reported no new domestic coronavirus cases for the first time.

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