CORONAVIRUS: A Bane or boon for the environment?
Ms Gaura Saxena, Deputy Manager (Technical & Publications), GRIHA Council through this blog intends to bring out her perspective on how the environment is being affected by the CoVID-19 pandemic and has it actually been improvised.
CoVID-19 crisis has brought the entire world to a standstill. The pace at which technological development was taking place globally, we felt that the control of everything in this world is in our hands and we can change whatever we wished to change. However, this pandemic has brought us to a conclusion that we all are mere players in the hands of nature which we had been taking for granted for several decades together. It had been sending signals in one form or the other to mend our ways but we have been ignoring it impertinently. The initial phases of this disease made us believe that due to the restricted movements of people within their respective cities, there has been a relief for the environment- no exhausts from factories, no fumes from cars, cleaner rivers and oceans, clearer skies and fresher air to breathe. As a result of which, we could see a lot of species of birds, insects and animals which had long been lost due to our indiscriminate play with the environment. For instance, there was a day when a Neelgai was found roaming on the roads of Noida which before commercialization was once an arable land. This is a clear indication of how our activities have trespassed into the various fauna’s original habitats and have interfered with their interaction with nature.
The CoVID-19 lockdown has given us this time to rethink about the effects of our actions on the environment. So, here I wish to ask whether CoVID-19 actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the environment? I would say, not really! There have been many ways by which this pandemic has enhanced our impact on the environment . Be it adopting the safest way of evading the spread of coronavirus which is to frequently keep washing our hands. It is estimated that a family of 5 will use about 100-200 litres of water only for hand washing purposes, thus increasing the daily waste water generation from each household, thereby putting a strain on the municipal treatment systems . During the lockdown, most of us have stocked up a lot of food and snacks, the majority of which came packed in plastic/paper bags. Earlier, we used to store those bags to be reused later for some other purpose. But now, considering the angst that corona has spread, we throw every bit of it outside thereby enhancing the amount of waste going out of our house on a daily basis. The use of masks and other PPE is another thing which is acting detrimental to the environment. Our oceans and landfill sites are already overwhelmed with the amount of waste we generate and last October only, the GoI initiated a ban on single use plastic. But, due to the way this pandemic has emerged, there has been an increased demand for PPE such as masks, gloves, face shield, etc. Several images have emerged of plastic-based PPE equipment ending up in the natural environment.
According to a report from Ellan Mc Arthur Foundation in partnership with the World Economic Forum predicts that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fishes by 2050. To deal with the situation of waste diversion during these times, there have been few organizations who have taken a leading role in this. Initiatives such as creation of plastic free PPE visors by a campaign group called A Plastic Planet. These are made from FSC paper board and PEFC cellulose from wood pulp2. Another innovation that I have come across is the development of face shields using waste plastic bottles that are being carried out in countries like Tanzania, Uganda and many more.
It has been predicted that if we don’t limit our anthropogenic activities, there are chances of more and more such pandemics to emerge and create even more devastating results.
Nature is thus creating numerous challenging and adverse situations for us to be more considerate towards the use of its natural resources and demanding us to be more innovative and creative at these times to fight and emerge out as winners from such situations.
 https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/water/covid-19-outbreak-more-hand-washing-can-increase-india-s-water-woes-69900, https://www.google.co.in/amp/s/www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/water/amp/covid-19-outbreak-more-hand-washing-can-increase-india-s-water-woes-69900