It’s true that during the first half of lockdown, nature offered people a fairy tale experience in realism, and it indeed enabled the environment to blossom and breathe a sigh of relief. But the fact is that the fairy tales are elusions, and elusions do not last forever! There seems no rainbow after this hurricane. COVID-19 outbreak presented a mixed bag consequence with considerably fewer positive effects as compared to the adverse impacts. The bruised environment did grip the attention during the lockdown, but it is not enough to heal its deep wounds. It is quite disappointing that the depleting GHGs(Green House Gases responsible for Carbon emission on earth) for a little time is not a sustainable way to refresh and clean up the entire environment.
As per the studies, the lockdown phase recorded the most significant drop in Carbon emission since World War II, due to restrictions on industrialization, transportation and air traffic. The research data published in May 2020 indicated that the daily global carbon emissions in early April reduced to 17%, which could result in a total deterioration of 7% annually.
Lockdown conserved the water bodies from contamination with waste and chemicals. This restraint resulted in the increased water flow, which helped the water bodies to clean themselves. The water canals in Venice experienced a makeover having crystal clear water due to restricted water transportation.
Restricted illicit activities and recessed pollution allowed people to listen to the chirping bird song, feel the breeze smeared in the fragrance of nature. However, later the relaxation in lockdown superseded the song of the bird with the noise of vehicles and the fresh air with the smog, industrial waste and air flights in the sky. As per the WHO reports, approximately 3 million people succumb to death due to ailments caused by air pollution.
The factors that invaded nature at the multiplied speed than before due to COVID-19 outbreak are
1. Unemployment and Resumption of Mafia
The economy is at the worst of all its phases. The lockdown compelled people to migrate from the urban areas to rural areas due to closure of the industries, layoffs and furloughs. In the conquest of living and sustainability, people took the refuge of illegal activities such as deforestation and poaching.
Forest vegetation and animals complement each other in the conservation process. Half of all, pharmaceuticals comes from genetic resources. Deforestation is an offence as it leads to severe climatic challenges damaging the ecosystem. Deforestation costs $4.5 trillion each year through the loss of biodiversity. The cutting of forest trees results in desertification, soil erosion, soil infertility, flooding and increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These are the host of the problem that leads to health, economic and ecological issues.
Again, poaching animals is a serious crime. The downfall in animal population due to plundering endanger the natural habitat and puts environment assets at risk of extinction. There are reports warning reorganisation of mafia and marked an increase in illegal activities such as land grabbing, illegal logging, and mining. Illegal logging across the World is responsible for between 15% and 30% of all wood traded. It’s estimated value range between $30 billion and $100 billion annually.
Rapid and uncontrolled deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest and Poaching in Africa is the evidence that supports the fact that economic imbalance and unemployment is highly costing the peaceful environment.
2. Increased Waste and The Reduction of Waste Recycling
People Worldwide were in the process of adopting a life with no plastic. Waste recycling is a rewarding method to stop pollution, save energy, and conserve natural resources. People Worldwide are living in fear of getting exposed to the COVID-19 infection, and hence COVID-19 paused the process bound to keep the environment clean and green. Countries such as the USA have stopped recycling programs to contain the risk of COVID-19 spreading in recycling centres.
The COVID-19 chaos leads to the unprecedented use of surgical face mask and PPE kits which soared like a forest fire. The COVID waste that constitutes used plastic mask, COVID-19 clinical waste, and food packets are being discarded inappropriately. This unplanned process of plastic disposal is piling up the World with the burden of plastic waste leading to the rise in plastic pollution. Studies made by OceansAsia reported an unadorned increase in marine debris and microplastics build-up in particularly in Hong Kong that testified large quantities of face masks littered along beaches and rural suburbs.
Approximately 13 million tonnes of plastic is dumped into the oceans every year. Hence, the environmentalists have cautioned that the approaching time of post-pandemic will be a threat to the ocean and marine life.
3. COVID-19 Blocked Environmental Diplomacy and Investment in Green Energy
COVID-19 outbreak applied hand breaks to the progression of the Environmental Diplomacy of the World. This joint venture of organisations and government bodies are entrusted with the responsibility to formulate policies concerning environmental issues comprising of land, air, water pollution and waste management. The pandemic diverted the attention of the environmentalist and federal units from climatic ambition to containing Corona outbreak.
Reports state that the environment will also be affected by the lowered venturing in Green Energy Technologies. The COVID-19 disruption brought most investments in clean energy technologies to a standstill. Marten Ovaere, a postdoctoral researcher at F&ES, reported that the overall clean energy jobs dropped by almost 600,000 by the end of April, as investments in energy efficiency and renewable generation dried up.
The research reveals that COVID-19 aftermaths would significantly impact the energy innovation sector. It is estimated that the investment in low-carbon technologies would shrink, which would result in the withholding of the transition to cleaner vehicle fleets. The crisis hit automakers would abandon new vehicle and energy efficiency projects. In addition to this, a stringent state and local budgets for the next few years will possibly evade much of the investment in clean-energy options.
All great things come for free, and we are bestowed with nature which is free and encompasses the wealth and health in abundance. It is the high time to realise that environment is equally important as the economy and implement measures to preserve it.
People have to wake up to bitter realities that this mesmerising portrait of the ecosystem was momentary, and now the World is at higher risk of health erosion due to pollution.
Government and local bodies should formulate and implement norms to curb such discrepancies with a heavy hand. COVID-19 waste management and temporary solutions such as punishments, fines, categorisation of disposable items, awareness on littering and recycling of waste cannot do much to help revive the natural bounties. Therefore nature needs a break, and this diminution of nature should be treated as an emergency.