How Social Distancing Has Helped Improve Qatar’s Air Quality

Scientists from the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI) report that Qatar’s air quality has improved significantly over the last couple of weeks. The team from ESC, or Environment and Sustainability Center, primarily attributes this improvement to the social distancing efforts of the Qatari government.

Indeed, while this global pandemic has been harmful to various aspects in the way we live, it has at least allowed nature to breathe better, as less pollution is sent out to the air. Fewer cars are running, factories are closed, and traces of particulate matter, black carbon, nitrogen dioxide and other air pollutants are reduced by as much as 30 percent.

social distancing

Quarantine and Social Distancing Drastically Impact Qatar’s Air Quality

So how is QEERI measuring the air quality of Qatar? Well, the institute has five air quality stations monitoring specific parts of Doha, the capital city which houses 95 percent of the country’s total population.

These stations also have an air quality forecasting platform which helps paint a picture of the social distancing’s true effect on Qatar’s air quality index. This platform was developed by ESC, headed by senior research director Mohammed Ayoub.

What are the Specific Improvements to Qatar’s Air Quality?

1. Pm 2.5 concentrations have seen a 30 percent decrease all across Doha.

2. 9 percent decrease in ozone concentrations

3. 18 percent decrease in nitrogen dioxide concentrations

The Importance of Having Less Polluted Air

We all know that having less polluted air is generally good for our health. But having good air quality is even more important now that the risk of acquiring COVID-19 is present. Studies have shown that in the United States, if you live in a county with non-ideal air quality, then there is a 15 percent greater chance of death from the disease.

Bad air quality simply increases your vulnerability to respiratory illnesses. Your lungs are already beat up pretty bad from inhaling too much harmful air pollutants. Respiratory illnesses, such as asthma, are more prone to occurring too if air quality is terrible.

While this is all good, the risks can only be mitigated if the efforts to improve air quality is done on a long term basis. The social distancing efforts are helping, but to really make air clean, a long-term concerted effort between government leaders, citizens, the private sector, and other stake holders need to be done.

Further Studies With National Authorities

QEERI continues to collaborate with national authorities to monitor air pollutants due to aviation, shipping, industry, construction, traffic and more, and find how these relate to the social distancing strategies implemented to finally put an end to this global pandemic.

QEERI also continues to work with the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Municipality and Environment to conduct further related research and answer more specific questions.

Indeed, despite the obvious liabilities caused by the virus, scientists focusing on air quality research have found this situation a rare opportunity to conduct an experiment of sorts. From learning about how social distancing is helping air quality, the lessons we learn from this experience can help us in the future.