The purpose behind writing this article is to bring the attention of general people as well as government authorities towards the opportunities and obstacles with which the environment is suffering in this COVID era or will suffer in the post-COVID era.
This article was submitted by Anjali Tripathi, B.COM L.LB(Hons.) From Institute of law, Nirma University
Here, it discussed the positive as well as negative impacts created by the corona pandemic on the environment. The article further discussed the lastingness of these effects which are considered as probably positive but going to make the situation worse in the future. The discussion here has been done with the help of some data analysis of the past few years. Along with it, it also mentioned about the loopholes of Environment Impact Assessment that how it gets deviated from its path, which has the supreme responsibility to make checks and balances.
Therefore, to get out of these situations and make our environment survivable it suggests some precautions which are inspired from few other countries so that we can make our environment better at all levels.
Coronavirus along with the lockdown proves itself as a boon for the environment and its heritage. Although this is a kind of pandemic which had destroyed the lives of lakhs of people across the globe but on the same time it had also contributed in the preservation of our earth and provided a kind of pure life to the peoples which they can’t even think of in their dreams. It’s a miraculous work of making us aware of the pure environment. At somewhere it seems like the environment itself is doing to teach us a lesson so that we get to know the value of prestigious resources provided free of cost to us by our natural surroundings.
The pandemic has proven itself at the environmental level by giving the nature its identity back which was under the outbreak of pollution for the last several years. The survival of animals and other species became vulnerable, because we peoples were not ready to cut down in our luxuries even if we had to ruin the environment for that. But now after corona virus surrounded our lives and countries we are forced to shut down even our basic survival instruments which positively impacted our environment. Now all the industries are at standstill, all the traffic is at stop and nature is free to change according to its requirement. But, these short-term changes are like happiness before the storm. As, in post-COVID era economy will run again and then its speed will be faster than before to cover the losses and at that time we need to take tougher measures to protect our environment.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF CORONA
According to the data collected throughout the world, countries suffering from this pandemic are also experiencing a big improvement in their environmental activities. There is a significant reduction in the amount of carbon emission being released into the atmosphere. Also, the concentration of Nitrogen Dioxide in the air has fallen drastically as the number of cars, buses, and trains running on the roads have become less. Further, the PM 2.5 which is a form of air pollution gets reduced to its extreme level. The impact of all these is that we can get in touch with the clean air, blue skies and shining stars, now our metropolitan cities are giving a feel just like any foreign city, means clear and bright. So when pollution has reduced to that much of levels then definitely there seems to be a huge reduction in the death rate of people. A scientist from Standard ford University has done the research he collected the data of PM 2.5 levels in the Chinese cities and observed what impact would be falling PM 2.5 levels would have on the mortality rates. He concluded that after corona virus more than 77,000 lives have saved due to the decrease in air pollution.
Not only air but also the water of our rivers has developed the incredible changes in its quality. During Lockdown factories are not allowed to operate due to which the rivers remain free from dumps of wastes for continues period. It has been seen that rivers like Yamuna and Ganges get free from extreme excretory materials at 40%-50% levels which is a huge improvement without any specific investment.
This lockdown has probably also caused effect upon the wildlife as many extinct species get spotted by the peoples wandering on the lonely roads. Peoples are sharing various videos of these endangered species with a realization that humans were practicing like a violent hunter which forced animals to live in isolation. But, now corona has made a big difference as now humans are pushed indoors and the quotes like “Karma comes back” had proved their validity.
Similarly, there is a massive decline in Carbon Dioxide emission which according to experts is the biggest decline after World-War 2 like situations, cars and other vehicles that are the primary source of these toxic gases are at hold. Therefore, the worldwide disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in numerous positive impacts on the environment of not only India but also in the other countries among which China is the first example. China is the first country to get equipped with this pandemic with incredible developments in its climatic situations which were never seen before even after doing thousands of cleanliness attempts.
WILL THESE EFFECTS LAST LONG?
Well it is like to be found by the environmental researchers across the world that these effects are just like illusion whose power is limited with them. It indicates that everything will be fine as long as lockdown is there for the reason that till that time only travelling are stopped, road traffic dwindled to a minimum, air travel is at hold, factories limited their activities and populations ordered to stay home. The precautions or can be said as a restrictions are the only change-makers and deserves to get credit of this improvement, but at once lockdown get some relaxation then it is really impossible to continue these positive influences anymore. People is habitual of celebrating even small happiness like a big achievement and will definitely enjoy their independence from lockdown forgetting about environment which is like eating again lots of unhygienic food after a healthy dieting. It indicates that post-COVID situations will definitely destroy the ideal impacts of coronavirus on environment.
Additional practical examples of China, as well as other countries that got success in making themselves out of this pandemic, are also experiencing the same situation of polluted environment after such a special break of breathing in the pure environment. Now nature is not able to heal itself as it was able to do during pandemic.
As claimed by the experts, the situation of the post-COVID period is going to be verse then it was before. At the end of this pandemic peoples will make lots of pre-planned visits which they were not able to complete during corona, factories will run with extra speed, vehicles will start their travel without any hesitation, explorers will again assemble beside rivers, beaches and will dumb their empty bottles in the same, these all activities will succeed in their aim of getting the environment back to terrible position.
Most probably peoples will utilize all of their energy to cover all their losses in ignorance of environment. Therefore it depicts that environmental laws were going to be at their verge in post covid-era.
Also as per the data of carbon emission of last few years it has been observed that there is inverse relation among pollution, Environment and Economy. It has been found that in past the escalating decrease in carbon emission has been occurred when economy is suffering. And its overall positive impact is clearly visible on the environment.
It is clearly visible that the worldwide carbon emission have been steadily rising every year due to which the climate change has become worse, but notice the drops in the carbon emission and will find that there was a drop during first oil crisis then another drop get arises at second oil crisis and at the time when USSR broke up. This pattern can be predict as whenever economy crashes then only carbon emission goes down and environment gains a better opportunity to enhance its health, but that opportunity also has time-limitation with it. Once country is able to get out of the crisis the emission levels increase with extra speed and made the curve force to take one more big step towards pollution. It indicates that there is a kind of inverse relation between economy and environment that’s why when economy suffers then environment is at better position and vice-versa. Similarly, following the above scenario covid is also giving the same sense of huge reduction in pollution with a relaxation to nature. Therefore it could be easily predicted that pollution will increase with the same speed as it has been reduced during lockdown and will make the environment suffer at its extents.
OPPORTUNITIES OPENED BY THE PANDEMIC
The lockdown has clearly told us what the main sources of pollution are and how they are impacting our lives. Now it’s time to make some innovative changes without following the previous pattern of disaster and develop the strategies to turn this chance in environment’s favour for that, the very first step which government needs to take is that giving more preference to greenhouse gases instead of fossil fuels in order to make a better recovery. Further, as factories and various big industries get stuck with this lockdown and had already suffered enough losses so at this time government needs not to think about the hurdles these institutions had to suffer in switching to different mode and can ask with the industries while giving them monetary support to restart their productions and businesses with green energy because this is a suitable as well as adaptable track for the government in order to enforce green gases replacing burning of toxic fossil fuels.
In the meantime, this pandemic had made us aware with the fact that we can make huge improvements in our natural surrounding just by taking good steps free of any monetary investment. If at the one side we are continually emerged in dumping the wastes of factories in the water and at the other side investing lots of wealth in the campaigns for cleaning the same rivers then it creates no more good changes. Therefore, instead of this we need to cut the main root of pollution by innovating any better measure as a solution of the problem then only we can make developments.
Similarly, wild animals are also a vital part of our system so, there is a need to develop pathetic feelings and make people aware with the fact that animal also helps us to save the environment by playing a role of savior in the ecosystem. They help in bringing out the nutrients from the cycle while others help in decomposition, carbon, and nitrogen cycle. Along with this, they help us to reduce negative impacts on the globe and help us address an issue such as global warming, pollution, environmental disturbances, etc. So now there needs to focus on the photos of extinct animals clicked at the time of lockdown as they are showing nothing but the future potential that if the government gets success in making strict laws in favor of these animals then we need not capture them in photos with the tag of an extinct animal.
The very first and supreme measure suggested by various experts around the world is switching to green jobs as it will improve the efficiency of energy, raw materials, and water; minimize or avoid all forms of waste and pollution; protect or restore the ecosystem.
The U.K. Committee on Climate Change (CCC), penned an open letter to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him to support retraining unemployed workers for green jobs as the country tries to rebound the economy from the pandemic.
Since jobs in renewable energy and other forward-thinking fields are more sustainable career paths than working in fossil fuels, that’s why our country also needs to grab these practices adopted by various other countries.
At the same time, can continue with virtual meetings just as during Corona with the development of more user-friendly apps or virtual platforms by keeping in mind the security and facilities of the people to avoid lots of trips and pollution emerging because of frequent business meetings, seminars, and conclaves where thousands of people gathered by making long traveling through their vehicles. Also if we see then the average of 120.1 g/km CO2 gets emitted by a new car so if there are possibilities to replace these trips with any environmental friendly substitute then we can make a huge drop in such toxic emissions.
Then what we can do is the promotion of more electric vehicles as they have Zero exhaust emissions and are eco-friendly, the further government can assist the new start-ups of EV and can encourage new industries to turn their production toward electric vehicles as it is cheaper, easy to manage and produce lower costs.
Also, we have plenty of guidance to learn and acquire other countries’ measures towards the future protection of the environment, for example, Brussels is creating 40km of new cycle paths; and France is tempting cyclists out with subsidies. In the UK the government has announced a £2bn infrastructure scheme to encourage more walking and cycling. These schemes have capabilities to add a plethora of pureness in the environment’s surroundings to make nature survivable.
Some other important steps that are encouraging as well as motivating us to take innovative steps include- “The mayor of London has unveiled measures to create car-free bridges and streets.”These potentials show that if we have strong determination towards a healthy environment then definitely we will achieve that without any hurdles. Also, the environment wants to explore some form of a circular economy, in which waste is minimized with resources kept in use as long as possible through recycling and reuse so that environment can protect itself from the never-ending list of the peoples.
Lastly to make these effects effectible for a longer period the crucial step which government needs to take is to strengthen the environmental laws so that in pursuance of fulfilling the loss which people had to bear during this pandemic they at least keep in mind with them the environmental impacts they were going to create with their activities. The government is in dire need of promoting the policies like “Environmental Impact Assessment” as it will help to curve the bad impacts going to arise from new projects in future and help us to grow with environment-friendly business activities.
The pandemic has played a vital role in making peoples life verse than ever, but in ignorance of that is improving the environment also which is a good measure. But, we cannot accept that improvement as a positive side of the virus because no any pandemic can be considered as a good change-maker even if it is adding a lot in the health of our environment. At its brighter side this pandemic is a destroyer rather than a restorer that’s why its impacts are also for temporary period who badly wants to utilize it as an opportunity to provide the environment miraculous and long-lasting development.
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