This blog post is written by Anku Sharma, a freelance writer of Norvergence
As Images of Graceful Swans swimming in the erstwhile busy canals of Venice were seen all across the internet, the world got up and took notice. Soon mountain goats were spotted on the streets, jackals in jogging parks; deers timidly on the streets and clear blue waters brimming with beautify fish of varied colours and shapes. The smoggy non visible skies turned to crystal blue, the waters shimmered like opal under the sun as the birds sang and came out with their young ones.
This was the picture of the World that lives in our head and should be permanently in this state, but was only possible because 4 billion people of the world were put under an indefinite lockdown.
One by one the climate change skeptics reluctantly noticed how no cars on the roads means less smog. The healing Earth sang to a different tune. This time it is the tune of the wild which became possible only after the entire World came under the spell of Coronavirus.
This is a story about how the world changed in three months. Story of how residents across the world were able to breathe some unusually fresh pure and crisp spring air. Images from ESA satellite showed dramatic reduction in China’s air pollution from December to March. Soon data showed similar reduction in air pollution over Italy. According to Agora, a German think tank the greenhouse gases will see a reduction by 14% this year. The overcrowded tourists are sites breathing a sigh of relief. Even Venice which has over 20 million tourists every year is deserted. The canal water which usually bears a muddy and dirty appearance is now clear. Air Traffic which contributes to 7% of global green gas has stopped resulting in clearer skies.
The world we see around us in pictures, on the internet, on TV paints a Utopian picture of the post coronavirus world. The empty streets, travel restrictions across the globe. Less and less people out in the open except for Health Care Professionals.
Ever since the virus spread its tantacles across the globe the health care professionals have been in the forefront . Battling for the lives of their patients and many times themselves. However as we look at the perfect haven in regards to the environment that was created after Coronavirus stuck we also must be taking a closer look at what is actually lurking behind the real picture. And the reality is sinister and shocking. As tons and thousands of medical waste lies untouched, the fear of contamination accompanied by the lack of recycling manpower has lead to a dire crisis. The medical waste consisting of gloves, mouth masks, plastic syringes , medicine boxes and covers are washed ashore or lying in heaps and mounds. Due to coronavirus the waste management industry has become badly hit.
However, apart from the toxic medical waste the regular everyday garbage is piling high too. As fear and restrictions are keeping the workers in local municipalities away. Almost all recycling plants are shut due to the lack of people to operate them. The local waste is reaching catastrophic proportions . As the local waste grows the people in the shops have resorted back to using single use plastic bags. Most shops have brought the trend back after it was banned across the world. Because of the Virus people are preferring to use more and more single use plastic to protect themselves. Though mandatory , yet due to the deadly disease the water usage has increased tenfold all over the world. As people are wary of keeping a hygiene environment they are resorting to overuse and wastage of water too.
Another thing that is being used because of the virus is disinfectants and detergents. Most of which contain high grade toxic chemicals. Meanwhile the civic societies around the world are spraying sodium hydrochloride solution. Which is highly toxic to humans, animals as well as the environment. It is especially harmful to aquatic organisms even a tiny bit of this toxic chemical can linger in air and water for a long time. This eventually goes through rivers and canals. Thus contaminating the sea
Apart from this large volumes of non biodegradable waste is also piling up as well as organic waste due to restrictions imposed in the Agriculture sector. In most dairies across the world large quantities of milk is being wasted and thrown. In the animal farms across the world many farmers culled thousands of pigs and chickens mercilessly due. Due to the severe restriction on movement most national parks have been left unattended . Lack of monitoring of wildlife has led to incidence of poaching world wide.
The endangered and protected species are especially at high risk during this calamity as people working for the protection of the environment and marine conservationists are unable to do so.
In Botswana 6 Rhinos were brutally butchered since the lockdown . Similarly in North West S. Africa 9 Rhinos were killed too due to the shutdown. The lack of movement of forest patrol and volunteers across the natural ecosystem is taking its toll on the natural world.
The organic waste from agriculture , dairy livestock farms and zoos is lying unattended due as waste management is not functional due to sparse capacity.
The organic waste is leading to emissions of methane (CH4) which will rise and continue to rise much after the shutdown is lifted causing irreparable damage to the ozone. Most rivers are cleaned regularly for pollutants and weeds which are toxic for the sensitive river organisms and fish. However due to the pandemic this activity has been halted resulting in the increase in the river pollution.
The usually crowded Ganges bears a deserted look however pollution continues to rise due to sewage discharge into the river.
All across the world major pro climate summits and events have been cancelled or postponed therefore the recent upward momentum of climate change awareness through activism has come to a halt. School strikes protests that Environment speakers such as young Greta Thunberg started which put this crisis right in the forefront of headlines across the world had to be stopped. Meanwhile as the lockdown across the world begins to end the world will be back to its old way as climate change will be put away like woolens in summer.
As China opens its economy the emissions which had dropped by 25% are beginning to rebounce. Same with US which had 15 – 20 % lower emissions between March 15 -April 15 .With government giving bailout packages for transportation, air travel companies and Industrial manufacturers, it shows us a more bleak future for the health of our planet .As the economy of the world weakens because of the pandemic it directly has an adverse effect on renewable energy sources since the fossil fuel prices have reduced across the globe. Governments due to Covid 19 have full powers over the law and order situations as well as policy making. Many countries have relaxed environment policies during this crisis.
In India itself the National Boards of Wildlife approved wildlife clearance for developmental projects across the country. The cleared projects include highway construction in Goa ( Through the Mollem wildlife Sanctuary ) ,the Nagpur Mumbai super highway ( more than 25000 trees to be felled) and a Railway Bridge in Madhya Pradesh and Telangana (Through Kawal Tiger Corridor).Even the Renewable energy projects that had taken off is on halt because of the pandemic.
We cannot say for certain when the pandemic will subside and the shutdown will be open; however, one thing is certain the world will never be the same again. we’ll need to go back to what we were doing before but our approach will have to take a 360° turn .It is difficult to talk of climate change in the middle of a deadly virus killing millions of people across nations even though if we look closely just an air pollution kills 7 million people each year and reduces 3 years of an average life.
All this has led to an extensive and cataclysmic damage to our environment which will take a long time to repair much after the shutdown. This virus has led to a long term impact on not only human health but the degradation of our ecosystem and environment. It will take years to clean the pollutants .And we all need to understand that coronavirus induced lockdown is not the solution through it has given us a clear idea about climate change and the impact of human interference on the environment .
The most natural solution is to transition from fossil fuels to clear energy and to change our food habits towards a plant based organic lifestyle. Livestock results in razing of rainforests, organic waste and CH4 emissions. Therefore, we need to look for sustainable trade and pro Environment programs if we wish to hear birds continue to sing near our windows or swans swim in the canals with joyful abandon and without fear of human interference.