Recovery tracker: Traffic, workplace visits and emissions on the rise

Traffic congestion is inching closer to 80 per cent of normalcy in both Mumbai and New Delhi.
Traffic has picked up in major cities with more and more people going to offices ahead of the year-end.

Other weekly indicators of economic activity also showed gains. Business Standard tracks power generation, pollution data, and goods that the Indian Railways carries on a weekly basis; apart from traffic and location data. They provide a more current picture of the post-Covid recovery ahead of the official data which is often released with a lag. 

Analysts globally have been tracking similar indicators to get a sense of the economy as different nations went through lockdowns to control the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Search engine Google releases the location data with a lag. The latest data is as of December 15. All other data is as of Sunday, December 20.

Traffic congestion is inching closer to 80 per cent of normalcy in both Mumbai and New Delhi. Mumbai’s traffic congestion has been relatively higher than New Delhi lately, shows data from global location technology firm TomTom International (see chart 1). The latter had been grappling with a fresh surge in Covid-19 cases.

Google’s anonymised location data shows that workplace visits are back to 81.9 per cent of where they were in normal times. Shopping for essentials like groceries or medicines was 9.3 per cent higher than normal. Visits to other retail and recreation spots were down 28.1 per cent (see chart 2).

Business Standard also tracks emissions of nitrogen dioxide. The pollutant comes from industrial activity and vehicles. Delhi’s emissions are within 4 per cent of normal levels. Mumbai’s emissions are down 97.9 per cent based on Bandra location data (see chart 3,4).

Power generation was at or slightly below 2019 levels towards the end of November. This has shown a slow rising trend again. The number is now 6.7 per cent higher than 2019 for the seven days ending Sunday (see chart 5).

More goods travelled on the Indian Railways. Freight loading is up 9.9 per cent compared to the same period last year. The earnings from the goods carried have also moved north. It is up 8 per cent over 2019. Both these numbers are higher than the previous week. Gain in quantity of goods transported was 8.3 per cent for the seven days ending Sunday, December 13, and earnings had shown a 7 per cent rise then. It has now moved closer to the double-digit mark (see chart 6).

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