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Less air pollution seen in SA over lockdown period - CSIR

Preliminary data shows that over Gauteng, nitrogen dioxide concentrations decreased by 23% and sulfur dioxide by 47%.

Picture: Pixabay.com

CAPE TOWN - Air quality experts at the CSIR said that there'd been a decrease in air pollution over the national lockdown period.

A team of researchers at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is working in collaboration with the UK's University of Leicester to understand the impact of the lockdown on air quality in South Africa.

Preliminary data shows that over Gauteng, nitrogen dioxide concentrations decreased by 23% and sulfur dioxide by 47%.

Scientists said that the country's large sources of nitrogen oxide stemmed from vehicle emissions, industrial activities as well as energy generation that mostly came from coal-fired power plants.

Professor Rebecca Garland said that data was obtained from the Earth Observing TROPOMI instrument on the Sentinel-5P satellite.

"In many areas in South Africa, particularly the Highveld, that as summer rainfall region sees large increases in our pollution in the winter time, so when the COVID-19 crisis started, that was our first story that we're moving into a season where air quality generally gets worse and if people are exposed to air quality, they may also be vulnerable to infection."

Experts said that decreases in emissions were also documented in countries like China, Italy, India, Spain and the UK, countries that also accessed data from the same satellite.