Coronavirus pandemic leads to huge drop in air pollution in Turkey

Turkish cities have shown significant drops in air pollutants as the coronavirus hits work and travel, according to the Environment and Urbanization Ministry's data.

Şebnem Babat / Duvar

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, air quality is picking up in Turkish cities with a sharp reduction in traffic that causes much of the air pollution.

According to the Environment and Urbanization Ministry's data, the air quality of Istanbul's most dense areas have upgraded to the “good” category from the categories of “sensitive” and “average.”

Turkey reported its first confirmed coronavirus case early on March 11.

On this day, Istanbul's Mecidiyeköy neighorhood, the city's most congested area in terms of traffic, recorded an air quality index as “sensitive,” measured by concentration levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and PM10. (PM10 refers to particles equal or below 10 microns in size and they make up a large proportion of air pollution and can enter the lung.)

The NO2 concentration level stood at 59 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3); CO level stood at 9.897 µg/m³; and PM10 level stood at 51 µg/m³ in Mecidiyeköy on March 11, according to the Environment and Urbanization Ministry's monitoring station.

On March 25, however, these values went down to 48 µg/m³ for NO2 and to 42 µg/m³ for PM10.

“The air quality is pleasing and air pollution poses a low risk or does not pose a risk at all,” the ministry's evaluation said for Mecidiyeköy on March 25.

Istanbul's Başakşehir district, which is rich in terms of industrial zones, reported an ozon concentration level of 102 µg/m³ on March 11, while this figure went down to 57 µg/m³ on March 25. Sulphur dioxide concentration level on the other hand went down from 28 µg/m³ to 17 µg/m³ during this time period.

The monitoring station in the industrial town of Ereğli in Turkey's Black Sea region reported the air quality of the town as “sensitive” on March 11, while upgrading it to “good” on March 25. The PM10 concentration level was measured at 166 µg/m³ on March 11, while it went down to 30 µg/m³ on March 25.

The monitoring station in Turkey's Central Anatolian city of Sivas recorded the PM10 concentration level at 83 µg/m³ on March 25. This figure went down to 58 µg/m³ on March 25, while the air quality upgraded from “sensitive” to “good.”

The improvement in air quality has been observed in many countries across the world that remain under coronavirus quarantine. Satellite images have revealed marked fall in global nitrogen dioxide levels.