An analysis of Environment before and during lockdown
An analysis of Environment before and during lockdown
Environment is defined as the air, water and land in or on which people, animals and plants live. The importance of environment can be understood reading the definition. However, with the progress of humans, environment is getting destroyed at a rapid pace. Increased technology, heavy industrialization are acting as a slow poison for the environment. A shift from natural dependency to tech dependency has led to depletion of ecological balance.
Over the years, a need to conserve our environment has been felt at the global level. Perhaps the need to enforce a well built framework came during the UN Conference on the Human Environment that is the Stockholm Conference of 1972. Rising temperatures and melting glaciers led to the environment concerns and hence international bonds and national level Legislations were entered into.
The recent COVID19 has in many ways affected our environment and probably given results what the legislative frameworks were enacted for, although in a different way – the lockdown way! The pandemic is definitely not a blessing for human being but it could be well said that it is for the environment indeed. Clean waters, improved air quality, reduction in green house gases, glimpse of never seen before creatures, filling of the ozone hole are all the results of the forceful lockdown due to the virus, within a short span of few months.
Analysis of Environment Before and during COVID19 Lockdown
The COVID19 pandemic led to a lockdown in most of the nations putting businesses, industries, education to a standstill. People were forced to be locked up inside their homes which resulted in empty roads, closure of airlines, no water activity. This lockdown period brought enormous changes in the environment as all the environmental resources were unused for quite some time. The famous waters of Venice turned to be clean within a short span, the polluted city of Delhi saw cleaner air after long time, many animals were spotted walking freely on the once so very busy roads. Let us look at a brief analysis about the significant changes in our environment that happened during the lockdown:
• Air quality
The air quality of the world is continuously deteriorating due to rise in emission of toxic pollutants in the air. Delhi was declared most polluted city as of 15th November, 2019 by the World Air Quality Index. Mumbai was ranked ninth while Kolkata sixth in the same year.
During the lockdown, movements of vehicles and air travel had reduced, besides restrictions on factories and industries led to a considerable drop on air pollution. For instance, the precautions to prevent the spread of corona virus such as quarantines has resulted in reduction of 25% of carbon emissions in China alone. A decline in nitrous oxide emissions have been observed from cars, power plants and factories in Northern Italy during the COVID19 lockdown period. Blue skies and clear moonlight could be seen in Delhi after years. Some before – after pictures of the world. All the countries observing lockdown, have experienced significant improvement in their air quality due to reduction in road traffic and factory emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and related ozone formation (O3). Global air traffic reduced by 60%.
• Water quality
Reduced water activities over the past few months has helped in improving the quality of water. Marine life has improved to a great extent. Many new and endangered species were been observed due to clean water. Canal waters in Venice got improved and moreover, jelly fish was observed in the Venice canals which before the lockdown, was never expected.
• Effects on wildlife
The lockdown period made life much happier for the wildlife as many were spotted roaming freely on heavy traffic roads. Animals enjoyed the breath of fresh air as well thanks to the drop in air pollution. In America, fatal vehicle collisions with animals such as deer, moose, bears, etc fell by 58% in only April and May thus showing how acts of humans harms the wildlife in normal times.
COVID19 – a wake up call to put a check on Environmental Hazards?
As observed above, there have been tremendous changes in environment after the lockdown came into effect due to COVID19. Changes are happening which we never expected. The important question here arises is whether the COVID19 period is a wake up call to understand the brutal attack of humans on our environment, as we experienced multiple positive effects on environment due to no human activity.
Though lockdown can not be imposed forever for the sake of environment conservation, if we are to constrain the happening of new pandemics, we must put a stop at the ever increasing environmental degradation. Similar to the restraint on exploitation of environment during the lockdown, it is perhaps a wake up call for humans to adopt this as a habit if we wish a healthy and good life expectancy rate.
The short period of lockdown has no doubt almost brought a balance in our ecosystem. However, it is pertinent to note that the lockdown was for only a temporary period and the benefits derived out of it are short term and not permanent. Human activities are restricted only for a time and would be back like before post lockdown. There are reductions in emissions due to economic downturns but that should not be seen as beneficial, stating that China’s attempts to return to previous rates of growth amidst trade wars and supply chain disruptions in the energy market will worsen its environmental impact , thus stating the benefits to be of short term only.
The lockdown has definitely created an awareness amongst humans about the conversation of environment, but is not a permanent solution to prevent environmental degradation. Past few months have already created heavy economic losses and factories and industries would be desperate to be back to work. Moreover, they would be aiming to overcome past losses thus making more efforts, thereby higher emissions of toxics in the environment. Delhi, which saw a fall by 79% in pollution during the initial phase of lockdown in India, has started to rise by four to eight times as the city is getting back to its normal lifestyle.
However, the COVID19 period is an opportunity for humans to observe how we have mutilated the environment and how non human activities bought a balance, and thus taking initiatives to build a better environment even without lockdown support. It is the time to make permanent reductions in CO2 emissions and adopt ecofriendly methods to survive.
Solutions against Environment Degradation
• Avoiding Deforestation
An important step to avoid degradation of environment is to control deforestation. It has led to loss of huge forest lands. Even the COVID19 period was used by criminal groups to increase deforestation. Deforestation rose by 150% in March 2020 compared 2017-2019 average for the same calendar month. Apart from that, loss of 529 square kilometers in the Amazon in April , has been recorded. Thus, deforestation needs to be controlled in order to protect the environment.
• Recyclable Plastic usage
Plastic is a big threat to our environment. Disposable plastic is the new trend in society and that is leading to rise in plastic pollution. Every year 18 billion pounds of plastic seeps into the oceans from coasts. Corona virus has led to increased plastic waste due to masks and sanitizers. Hospitals in Wuhan produced more than 240 tons of waste daily at the height of the outbreak In coming years, masks and sanitizers would be of much use hence plastic recyclable methods must be adopted.
• Governmental Regulations
Governments must plan steps to avoid environment degradation by strengthening laws and monitoring their applicability. Provisions for illegal dumping must be made stringent and heavy penalties must be imposed.
Besides the above methods, public awareness and education regarding environment could be helpful. Waste generation could be considerably reduced and even recycled. Consumption levels could be brought down and eco friendly methods must be accustomed to.
At the end, it could be well concluded that humans have a big role in deterioration of environment. The existing environmental laws are unable to protect the environment and non activity of humans brought the intended changes in many ways during lockdown. There is a need to strengthen laws and see the lockdown as an opportunity to bring changes in human role towards the environment. Development is important but should not come at the cost of environment.
Article by Rahul Mishra
S.Y.L.L.M. (Criminal Law)
Thakur Ramnarayan College of Law, University of Mumbai