COVID-19 and Environment

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Environment is a topic very dear to each one of us for discussions and to be sympathetic about its deteriorating state.  We all want to have a clean, sustainable and safe environment all around us without doing our bit but asking or pointing figures on others. Governments at every level (local, state, national as well as international) are all doing their level best by signing different agreements/acts and setting up various agencies, commissions, committees, departments, laboratories, NGOs,  designating special days as “Environment Days” and organizing seminars/conferences to motivate people to think and contribute their (people’s) best towards protection, conservation and preservation of environment.

These all type of activities are going on from the times since people learnt about the worsening of environment but still there was almost no improvement in the state of environment. People only appreciate the old generations for their environmental friendly life style without think to act on such principles.  Growing activities of materialism and consumerism in the society leading towards transport congestion and industrialization has worsened the state of environment.    

Lockdown impact

From the month of February 2020, there was a worldwide disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and many countries had adopted lockdown procedures that stopped people from moving out/transport, shops and other establishments. The lockdown was all aimed at controlling the spread of Covid-19, and hopefully reducing the death toll. The lockdown might have resulted in a number of hardships to various sections of the society like industries, business, migrant labor, education etc. and will also impact the economy, employment and livelihoods world over.  But this lockdown due to COVI-19 has also resulted in some positive impacts on the environment and the climate which human could not accomplish even by taking different measures for the last many decades.  During lockdown period, environment has seen a great change in its different components such as air quality, water quality, wildlife, vegetation, reforestation and decreased carbon emissions and litter.  The considerable decline in road/train/air travel has caused many regions to experience a large drop in air pollution. Similarly, slow down of industrial waste generation and its unmanaged disposal has resulted in the improvement of water quality in water reservoirs. Pollution and green house gas emissions have fallen across continents as countries try to contain the spread of the corona virus by putting lockdown and within months of this lockdown the Earth’s environment has been transformed. However, waste generated from the items used to tackle COVID-19 by people and in hospitals has to be managed with minimum environmental impact. Positive impacts also include governance-system-controlled investments towards a sustainable energy transition and other goals related to environmental protection.

No doubt, only an immediate and existential threat like Covid-19 could have led to such a profound change so fast. But a global pandemic that is claiming people’s lives certainly shouldn’t be seen as a way of bringing about environmental change either. Moreover, it is still not certain how long this environmental change will sustain the environmental unfriendly activities of world population when the unlocking of all activities will take place. It may be possible that pollution of all types will bounce back so much with more quantum that lockdown environmental positive changes will be things of past. However, the response to the corona virus outbreak has drawn reactions from climate scientists that it is only the way that many communities have taken big steps to protect each other from the health crisis. It’s safe to say that no one would have wanted for emissions to be lowered this way but if anything, it has also shown the way or an invaluable lesson that communities can do miracles if they determine to do so and desired environmental changes can be stimulated.  The speed and extent of the response taken on climate change is only the hope if the environmental deterioration has to be treated urgently.

Some environmental positives of lockdown

The world's largest lockdown particularly in Indian context as country asked its citizens to stay home and practice social distancing means closing all factories, markets, shops, and places of worship, suspension of public and private transport and construction work. The Covid-19 lockdown is helping the planet’s environment healing in a way never seen before. Here are some of the most vital environmental changes seen in India after the Covid-19 lockdown.

>The lockdown period with no pollution has led to a better air quality index all over the country.  Due to which, for example, people in the northern Indian state of Punjab are reacting with awe at the sight of the Himalayan mountain range, which is now visible from more than 100 miles away.

>Visuals of a cleaner River Ganga have emerged from Uttar Pradesh's Kanpur as well as Varanasi and in a rare sighting, now a days, fishes can be seen near the Varanasi ghaat steps.

>The water of River Yamuna has also started to appear clearer.

>Critically endangered, South Asian River Dolphins also known as Ganges Dolphins have also been spotted back in the Ganga river after 30 years.

>Tens of thousands of flamingos have been seen gathered in the city of Navi Mumbai. Though, the birds normally migrate to the area every year, but residents have reported that this year they have seen a massive increase in their numbers.

>The Uttarakhand Pollution Control Board Water from Har-ki-Pauri in Haridwar was tested and the results from the tests reveal that the water here has been classified as 'fit for drinking after chlorination', for the first time in decades.

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