If you’ve noticed clearer skies in this time of restricted movement, it isn’t just what your eyes are seeing; Think City Analytics has found via satellite spectrometry that the air over Peninsular Malaysia, especially over Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur, has shown significantly lower levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) for the period of March 18 to April 13, 2020, compared to the period of March 18 to April 13, 2019.

The spectrometry data was obtained from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P European Space Agency satellite, said Think City. Nitrogen dioxide is produced by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, and 80% of this comes from motor vehicle exhaust emissions, according to the Think City report.

The reduced NO2 levels can be directly attributed to people being less mobile, due to the the Movement Control Order imposed across the country, and the use of motorised vehicles drops significantly as a result. Similar patterns can be found in Europe, China and the United States as governments put measures in place to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The mapping of changes in nitrogen dioxide between now and this time last year shows that as Malaysians move about less due to the MCO there are reduced vehicle emissions. This is particularly evident along the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, which is where 20 million people reside,” said Think City programme director Matt Benson, who said that cleaner air was an ‘unintended consequence’ of the MCO.

Additionally, Think City Analytics has just launched a Covid-19 Community Resilience mapping tool, which looks at a number of social, economic and even environmental variables to offer insights into which areas may need additional public health, economic or social welfare assistance, said Think City Analytics lead Ceelia Leong.