COVID-19 Is Covering For Nature, Are We?

COVID-19 Is Covering For Nature, Are We?

The global COVID-19 crisis has been a wake up call for the human race. For generations, we have survived and thrived by exploiting others. As long as our needs were met, we paid no attention to the cost at which it came.

(Un) fortunately, that system has now collapsed. We are grounded and forced to ponder over and accept the damage that we have caused to our environment. As we got locked at home, mother nature peacefully reclaimed its space teaching us lessons that were long overdue.

It had just been ten days of the first lockdown that three Sambar Deer were spotted walking the streets of Uttarakhand, which is otherwise littered with tourists all through the year. There was spotting of the Nilgai in Noida, Uttar Pradesh and the Indian Civet in Kerala’s Kozhikode. Peacocks celebrated on the streets of Mumbai and Bisons wandered happily into a marketplace in Karnataka. After putting them through decades of distress — forest fires, deforestation, incessant poaching, encroachment — it is safe to say we got off easy.

Besides making us aware of the importance of co-existence, the pandemic, dramatically helped reduce carbon emissions globally. In a span of few months, the demand for energy has experienced a very serious depression across the world. According to International Energy Agencys Global Energy Review 2020, the world will use 6% less energy this year, which is equivalent to losing the entire energy demand of India. The global energy demand declined by 3.8% in the first quarter of 2020, with most of the impact felt in March as confinement measures were enforced in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

With travel bans being imposed in several parts of the world, there has been a drastic drop in the levels of air pollution. The global decrease of NO2 levels (Nitrogen Dioxide) were first noticed in January 2020, when China had started taking strict measures of quarantine. This was followed by Europe and North America’s lockdowns being announced in February and March, respectively, affecting a further drop in NO2 levels. In India, the figures are more substantial; NO2 levels from March 25 (the day quarantine began) to May 2 have averaged 90 µmol/m2 compared to 162 µmol/m2 from March 1 to March 24. In 2019, NO2 levels from March 25 to May 2 were also far above this year’s levels, averaging 158 µmol/m2. A similar trend was also observed in Greater and Navi Mumbai.

Cities like London, New York, Barcelona, and Milan are now looking at reserving more space for pedestrians and cyclists in order to help people avoid crowded public transportation as they gradually head back to work. Measures are being taken by leading economies to encourage people to restore normalcy whilst sustaining a healthy lifestyle.

Realising the need to address the next big global crisis i.e. climate change, Pakistan is now investing in ‘Green Stimulus’. With a crash in livelihood opportunities, unemployed day labourers are now being given jobs as ‘jungle workers’ to plant saplings as part of the country’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami Project.

Unfortunately, in India, no prominent measures have been announced to address this climate crisis. Even though air pollution levels in the country plummeted radically in the last few months after the lockdown was announced, unfavourable decisions are still being taken by the central and state authorities. In Assam, the standing committee for the National Board for Wildlife, the highest advisory body of wildlife chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, proposed to divert 98.59 hectares from the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve Forest for a coal-mining project by North-Eastern Coal Field (NECF), a unit of state-owned Coal India Limited (CIL). Shockingly, its approval came around the same time when a penalty of ₹43.25 crore was imposed on CIL for illegal mining inside the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve. India’s call for swift clearances of large-scale infrastructure, mining, and industrial projects is alarming in the current scenario.

The question that arises now is that will these behavioural changes taking place around the world continue once we emerge from this pandemic? How much are we willing to continue repairing what we damaged?

COVID-19 has taken a grim toll on jobs, economy, health, and lives. Yet, there is a silver lining to hold on to. This World Environment Day, its time to wake up. To take notice. To raise our voices. Its time to build back better for people and planet; its time #ForNature.

 

📢Oxfam India is now on Telegram. Click here to join our Telegram channel and stay updated with  latest updates and insights on the social and development issues.

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