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Lockdown means Gibraltar breathes cleaner air

Stephen Ignacio

The Gibraltar Government yesterday highlighted the drop in pollution in Gibraltar as a result of reduced traffic thanks to the lockdown, adding that the aim should be to maintain this once the restrictions are lifted.

The Department of Environment & Climate Change, working with the Environmental Agency and UK air quality experts Ricardo, reported that air quality around Gibraltar has continued to show improvement throughout the lockdown.

This is evident throughout Gibraltar in respect of the pollutants that have so far been examined, which include nitrogen dioxide (NO2), combined oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5). All have decreased.

These pollutants are produced in emissions from burning fossil fuels such as in power generation, road traffic, shipping and aviation.

The reduction is seen to be greatest during the week, when the drop in work-related traffic is greater than at weekends, the Gibraltar Government said.

It is evident throughout Gibraltar, including the Europort area, Devil’s Tower Road, Gibdock and the South District.

The exception in that PM10 in Rosia Road appears to have remained largely the same, even though other pollutant levels have dropped there.

This may indicate that traffic, possibly motorcycle traffic, remains at similar levels at Rosia Road, the government said.

Other than this, levels are down.

For example, for Devil’s Tower Road, daily plots show that the average concentration of the most dangerous particles (PM2.5) have not been above 8ug per m3 since lockdown, while they reached as high as 12ug per m3 in January.

The plots show similar results for all these pollutants in most of the sites.

This improvement in air quality is most likely the result of reduction in traffic, with reduction in construction and ship repair also contributing, the government added in a statement.

There will have been reductions from neighbouring areas across the Bay too, which could also be contributing to these results.

“The results are to be expected,” said Dr John Cortes, the Minister for the Environment.

“They do prove that traffic is now our main source of diminished air quality, which should encourage us to redouble efforts to deal with this after the current crisis when we start to regain a reviewed normality.”

“The fact that poor air quality affects respiratory health is particularly significant as this will be key to good health in later years if Covid-19 becomes endemic.”

“For the moment, one consolation of the difficulties we are living through is the fact that we are breathing cleaner air.”

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