Qatar’s social distancing strategies due to Covid-19, have helped in improving the air quality significantly, as there has been a decrease of nearly 20% Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) concentration over greater Doha, a webinar organised by Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (Qeeri) was told Sunday.
“There has been an overall decrease of 19.7% in NO2 concentration over greater Doha since the start of social distancing in the country over the baseline period which is before the implementation of social distancing policies,” disclosed Dr Mohamed Ayoub, senior research director, Environment and Sustainability Centre, Qeeri, part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University.
The webinar topic was ‘Demystifying the links between Covid-19 Response and Local Air Quality.’
“Social distancing policies started in Qatar with the announcement of the closure of schools implemented from March 10. We saw an initial increase in the number of NO2 concentration in the first week which could be due to parents trying to get educational resources for the students and other things such as people visiting parks or nearby places. There were some activities and quite a bit of traffic on the roads. However, the real decrease in NO2 concentration started from the second week when the remote working policies were in place in most of the organisations,” explained Dr Ayoub.
Qeeri has set up five air quality stations around greater Doha to measure the quality of the air in and the outskirts of the city.
“The whole scenario continued for the next four to five weeks and we have seen another big drop with the start of the holy month of Ramadan. So on an average, NO2 concentration has decreased about 20%. This is an average for the six to seven weeks since the start of social distancing. There has been differences in the rate of decrease depending on the areas - urban or semi urban - where the stations are located. However, this cannot be taken for the whole country as the air quality is measured within Doha City limits.” continued Dr Ayoub.
The official also noted that Qeeri will look into the data to develop more targeted and tactful intervention strategies to reduce air pollution in the country. “We will be studying the data more closely. We will also present our findings to the Ministry of Municipality and Environment as well as the Ministry of Public Health to develop strategies to control pollution in the city and beyond,” highlighted the research director.
The official also highlighted that such levels of better air quality can be maintained if sufficient measures are taken. “If we revise our work models and by introducing more initiatives, the air quality can be bettered in the coming days. As Qatar has opened more roads, highways and tunnels in the recent months, the traffic time is far more reduced than a couple of years ago. With more public engagement, the air quality can be taken to better levels,” he added.