Folks In India Can See The Himalayas For The First Time In 30 Years As Pollution Levels Drop

himalayas visible

For the first time in 30 years, the Himalayas mountain range is visible from the nearby northern Indian state of Punjab.

The Himalayas viewed from this region are normally invisible due to pollution and poor air quality. The upgraded view is a rare pleasant side effect of the coronavirus lockdown.

With businesses closed and people at home, fewer fossil fuels are being burned so less pollution enshrouds the Himalaya’s Dhauladhar mountain range.

Indians are photographing the view from their homes, tweeting feelings of joy in response to such a sight, but also voicing remorse at this stark case study in humanity’s negative impact on the environment.

Indian Cricket player Harbhajan Singh tweeted about the view from his Punjab rooftop, and some of his 10.4 million followers replied with their own photos.

India’s capital, New Delhi, is considered to be one of the most polluted areas on Earth and has experienced a significant reduction in air pollution since the coronavirus outbreak was classified a pandemic.

According to government data, levels of harmful air pollutants dropped 71% between March 20 and March 27.

The Indian government’s Central Pollution Control Board reports that air quality in 85 Indian cities has improved since lockdowns and curfews were instated. To date, India has confirmed 9,240 cases of the virus, and 331 have died.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered “a total ban on venturing out of your homes” for Indians, and the country has been on lockdown for over two weeks.

Essential services are still available, but non-essential shops, favorites, offices, and places of worship are closed. Public transportation is also suspended nationwide. Many of the Himalaya’s mountains remain closed to visitors.

While the Chinese and Nepalese sides of Mount Everest haven’t seen a climber in nearly a month, at least this majestic world wonder can be admired from afar for the time being.

“I have not seen such blue skies in Delhi for the past 10 years,” Jyoti Pande Lavakare, co-founder of the nonprofit Care for Air told CNN.

“It is a silver lining in terms of this awful crisis that we can step outside and breathe.”

Experts believe, however, that as day to day life resumes after the coronavirus outbreak, poor air quality is likely to return along with it, and the mountains will disappear again.

Sunil Dahiya, an analyst for Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, considers this unique moment an opportunity for India to invest in a clean energy future.

“Pollution is going down, but we cannot let the suffering of so many human beings be the way to clean the air,” Dahiya said. “We can only use the outbreak of coronavirus as a learning lesson for us.”

Dahiya says the reliance on fossil fuel in the country needs to be addressed.

“When we come out of the outbreak, it will be interesting to see if we invest money in the cleaner future. [Do] we ramp up the old fossil fuel based intensive industries, or [do] we go towards more sustainable options?”

Care for Air agrees this could be a wakeup call for Indian officials to take action.

“Obviously, this is not the most ideal way to bring down air pollution, but it does prove that air pollution is manmade,” Lavakare said. “It gives a lot of encouragement and hope that we can bring pollution down.”

Susan LaMarca

Written by Susan LaMarca