Environment Protection in Post Covid19 Era
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:
- Quality of air
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%.
- Quality of water
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.
Need to Strengthen Laws to Save the Environment
Despite having number of laws relating to the protection and promotion of environment, the world has practically failed to implement them. The failure has led to the overall environmental degradation.
“ Unless the environmental rule of law is strengthened, even seemingly rigorous rules are destined to fail and the fundamental human right to a healthy environment will go unfulfilled.” – David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment.
A report of the United Nations Environment has found that weak enforcement is a global trend that is increasing environmental threats, despite prolific growth in environmental laws and agencies worldwide over the last four decades. The report expressed concerns regarding failure to fully implement and enforce environmental laws and that is one of the greatest challenges to mitigating climate change, reducing pollution and preventing widespread species and habitat loss
During the COVID19 lockdown period, governments imposed stringent rules as to restricting human activities to curb the virus which was followed strictly to save lives. However, it not only saved lives but made a positive impact on the environment. The same way of stringent laws relating to environment is the need of the hour if we are to save the planet.
Laws relating to environment needs to be amended from time to time. Strengthening of the laws in the ever industrializing world is necessary to keep in check the haphazard disturbing the environment. Heavy imposition of fines, cancellation of licenses, imprisonment for breach of environmental laws could be a good solution. Agencies could be appointed by governments to keep an eye on anti environmental activities by factories, industries and even individuals. Efforts could be increased by international organizations to improve environmental laws. They can ask nations to submit timely reports relating to environment. Sadly, only 20 of 70 countries reviewed, or 28 percent, are ranked as “good” or “very good” in producing a regular, comprehensive, and current “State of the Environment” report. Countries could distribute funds in required states to implement relevant laws relating to environment.
The first step in environment protection is to strengthen the laws. The stricter the law, the better shall be the conservation. Initiative shall be taken by nations in the post COVID19 period to curb the deterioration of the environment by making stringent amendments in environmental laws. Punishing the person harming the environment is far beneficial than punishing the environment.
Sustainable Development – solution to Economy and Environment
The COVID19 pandemic has made a severe impact on the economies of countries. Not even the developed or medically advanced nations were spared. However, in the post lockdown period, it shall be a must for nations to boost economic activities to overcome the economic losses of the period of lockdown.
The lockdown gave a relief to the environment. However, once normal life resumes, human activities that have made a negative impact on environment, would return and this time probably with a higher impact, as economic development comes at the cost of degradation of air, water, land. Lockdown is not a permanent solution, but methods could be adopted to boost economies without harming the environment.
One such and most discussed method is – sustainable development. It is the method for development of a country without abusing the environment. The definition is –“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were adopted by member nations in 2015 to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by the year 2030.
The United Nations General Assembly has set out 17 global goals to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. These 17 goals are integrated, that is action in one particular area will affect the outcome in other areas. Several zeros are being aimed at like zero poverty, hunger, AIDS and discrimination against women and girls.
Although the SDG aims at an overall development goal, sustainable development shall be the way forward in the post lockdown period. Governments must make provisions for wind energy and increased use of solar energy. Increased green space along with sustainable forestry and sustainable construction could pave the way for economic development in an environmentally friendly manner.
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.
“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.” – Ban Ki-moon.
Article by Rahul Mishra
 Cambridge University definition
 Report by IQ AirVisual, Swiss based group gathering air quality data globally.
 Report of Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
 Report by European Space Agency.
 Via video captured by Biologist Andrew Mangoni.
 National Geographic report.
 Sarah Ladislaw, Center for Strategic and International Studies.
 Study by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
 United Nations Environment Program Report, Nairobi, 24th January, 2019.
 Report by Environmental Democracy Index.
 Brundltland Report (One Common Future), October, 1987.
 UN Resolution 70/1.