Himalayas visible from India for first time in 30 years

As the lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus in India continues, pollution levels across much of the country have dropped sharply. Now some residents in northern India say they can see the snow-capped Himalayas 1200 miles/200 kilometres away for the first time in 30 years.

Mesmerising, amazing, massive, surprising, never-before. There's been no dearth on social media of words to express what people in Jalandhar district of Punjab in India were feeling.

“We can see the snow-covered mountains clearly from our roofs. And not just that, stars are visible at night. I have never seen anything like this in recent times,” says Mr Seechewal, who has been working to raise awareness of environmental pollution for over 30 years.

Former Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh said it's a never-before experience.

“Never seen Dhauladar range from my home rooftop in Jalandhar. Never could imagine that’s possible. A clear indication of the impact the pollution has done by us to mother earth,” Mr Singh posted on Twitter.

India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, has been under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic since 22 March.

“Not just normal traffic is off the roads, but most industry is also shut down. This has helped bring the pollution level to unbelievably low levels,” Mr Seechewal said.

India's Central Pollution Board says the nationwide Janta Curfew on March 22, and lockdown since March 22, have resulted in significant improvement in air quality in the country. 

In Delhi alone, overall, there was a reduction of up to 44 per cent in PM10 March 22-23, 2020 compared to the previous day.

According to the India Today Data Intelligence Unit (DIU) from March 16-27, the air quality index improved by 33 per cent on an average in the country.

“Data shows that on average, Indian cities had an AQI of 115 between March 16 and 24. The air quality started showing improvements from the first day of the 21-day lockdown. The average AQI fell to 75 in the first three days of the lockdown,” reads the report.

The World Health Organisation says the safe limit for air quality is to keep the particulate matter PM2.5 below 20mg/m3.

India, during most of the year, records five times higher (PM 2.5 higher than 100mg/m3) than the global safe limit.