Air pollution clears up in Malaysia during MCO

You’ve probably seen numerous viral content online about nature thriving amid international COVID-19 lockdowns thanks to a decrease in human activity. Malaysia hasn’t been left out of the equation, and the Movement Control Order (MCO) has seen empty highways and human activity since 18th March 2020. 

We’re no stranger to annual bouts of haze, so it’s understandable why many are getting excited about clearer skies and rivers in Malaysia. So for those still celebrating these small environmental wins, you’ll be glad to hear that a major decrease in air pollution was reported on 16th April 2020 through satellite imaging. It follows news of a 80% decline in car traffic seen during MCO.

Clear skies recorded over Malaysia

Air pollution drops in Malaysia
Image adapted from:
Think City

Showing that not all is bad news at this time, Think City, a local organisation that studies cities’ impact on the environment, released a satellite image of clearer skies in Peninsular Malaysia during MCO. It showed that staying at home is impacting both the COVID-19 spread and the environment.

According to Think City, 80% of air pollution in Malaysia comes from motor vehicles alone. The burning of gasses such as coal and oil add to the other 20%. The image it released shows just how bad it can be, with dark red flares signifying air pollutants seen throughout Peninsular Malaysia from 18th March – 13th April 2019. 

But this changed significantly a year later in 2020 during the same months. A significant decrease of air pollution can be seen in KL, with almost clear skies in Johor and a scattering of light reds in surrounding areas. 

Clear skies in KL
Malaysians report seeing clear skylines in Kuala Lumpur during MCO.
Image credit: u/tqk_r

Mobility takes a deep dive in Malaysia

The cleaner air is largely due to the lack of cars on the streets, which shows just how Malaysians have been trying their best and adhering to MCO orders.

To add, a report by Waze also shows that driving has drastically decreased internationally, with countries showing up to a 90% drop in movement.

Empty streets in KL & JB
Empty streets seen in KL and JB at the start of MCO.
Image credit: The Straits Times & The Straits Times 

An increase of 20% around the announcement of MCO can be seen via Waze, and a deep dive of 80% in car movement after it began on 18th March 2020.

Waze mobility trend
Image adapted from:

According to Apple’s Aggregated Navigation Data, which also helps track movements according to Apple maps usage, Malaysia’s mobility trends still show promising signs. It stands at a 49% decrease in driving and 60% decrease in walking. The recent rising numbers are due in part to more businesses being allowed to open in Phase 3 of MCO.

Apple mobility trend
Image adapted from:

Decrease in air pollution seen in Malaysia during MCO

SkylineImage adapted from: Unsplash

No doubt, it’s been difficult for many having to sit still for longer periods of time than we ever had to before. But with zero cases reported in several states nationwide, it’s important to stay home for virus-free streets. It has also given us clear skies in cities nationwide that’s making us even more excited about the end of MCO once the curve is flattened to see it in person. 

Keep up to date with COVID-19 news in Malaysia here:

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