Environment Sustainability Post COVID-19
Updated: Jun 22, 2020
Niloy Subir Ghosh, Content Writer, Nyayshastram
The whole world is currently facing the wrath of the global pandemic, which is referred to as the coronavirus. The reasons behind the outbreak are still unknown, but the place from where it all began is back on track. This pandemic has led to a massive number of casualties all around the world. The financial lockdown has brought many companies to the verge of bankruptcy and has led to a large number of people being unemployed. Migrants have been stranded all over the nation and neither their home state nor the state where they are working in providing assistance. Overall, apart from these negative aspects, a few positive consequences have also come about. Because of this pandemic, a majority of nations have declared lockdowns, leaving their streets and their factories empty. These conditions have improved the sustainability of the environment to a large extent, but this situation may last only until we are able to maintain such control over our activities. This article tends to discuss how we can maintain the sustainability of the environment after the pandemic is over.
The aftermath of COVID-19 induced lockdown
Clearer waters in the canals of Venice, a view of the Dhauladhar mountains from Jalandhar after 30 years, and increased bird sightings in the cities are some of the reports which have flooded the media and are some of the instances where we see the environment triumphing. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unexpected news along with the burgeoning number of cases across the world — of a cleaner climate and wildlife rejuvenation1. All these instances have been solely caused by the fact that humans are not venturing into their daily activities which are causing harm to the environment. Once the lockdown is lifted, these situations may not arise again. Thus, we need strategies to sustain the quality of the environment that we have achieved.
Since the outbreak, most nations’ economies have been hit, but there may come a time when it will no longer be a threat to these economies, and as a result, the economy will rebound and jumpstart its working. By looking at the previous shreds of evidence, we can gather that when a nation rebounds after a crisis, its carbon emissions increase manifold; such a phenomenon was seen after the financial crisis of 2008.
Although the nature of the current crisis is vastly different from what happened in 2008, the outcome could be quite similar, based on the experiences2. Carbon emissions are likely to soar once economic activities pick up and production resumes. Therefore, it would be a sheer ignorance on our part to think that the environment would take care of itself; by using unexpected “solutions” like the COVID-19 pandemic. Many nations have introduced stimulus packages to upstart their economy by providing capital for investments (e.g. support for fossil fuel-intensive industries, expansion of the construction sector). These initiatives may pave the way for short-term economic recovery, but the long-term goal of environmental sustainability might not become a reality. Some experts are of the opinion that by just giving a year off to carbon emissions will not be enough and that we require a sustainable reduction in carbon emissions in the years to come, and only then can we sustain what we have achieved. Thus, we require strategies to control these emissions and have to shift to more sustainable energy sources
Vehicular emissions are also one of the significant contributors to air pollutants around the world. Delhi, the capital city of India, is one of the worst places for air pollution. Since quite a while now, this situation has been attributed to vehicle emissions. Ever since the lockdown began, it resulted in no-traffic on the roads; and Delhi’s air quality vastly improved3; further proving that a simple odd-even scheme cannot do the trick. We require complete control over vehicles present on the road if we want to sustain the air quality. We need to start adopting cleaner fuels and renewable alternatives to sustain the clean air and prevent air pollution from becoming Delhi’s potential killer. Transportation and industries have been the primary pollutants, but because of the lockdown, these activities have ceased to operate, leading to the clean air. Some experts also believe that lockdown could be used as a measure to reduce air pollution and improve air quality.
The lockdown has affected water bodies in the form of clean rivers. Ganga and Yamuna, which take the title of significant rivers, are two of the most polluted rivers in India. However, because of this lockdown, the rivers are now starting to heal naturally with Ganga’s water now being declared suitable for bathing and propagation of wildlife and fisheries4. Such a massive feat has been achieved not due to active efforts but due to the lack of industrial effluent being dumped in to the water and little to no human intervention. In order to maintain this status of the river, the government must understand that what it could not achieve in around five years, nature, by doing it in a few months, has proven itself the winner. The major takeaway from this incident is the fact that the government has to be stringent concerning the industries and how they manage the wastes and effluent disposal
In this lockdown, we have also observed that waste generation has reduced due to lesser consumption. The government should start initiatives to create a new and better waste management system since with a lesser load bringing about a change might be far more manageable. Medical waste is another example of waste, which needs to be dealt with in better ways since due to the pandemic large amounts of medical waste, is being generated.
This pandemic has also gone on to show how poor urban planning can lead to many people living densely which can affect the environment of an area, and inadequate sanitation systems can further increase the spread of diseases. This pandemic has led us to understand that we need better planning to have a sustainable future.
The pandemic has led to regretted and unwanted deaths all around the world; however, it has allowed us to help sustain a clean environment, which also is a result of this pandemic. In order to sustain this environment, we need to have a mechanism to control carbon emissions which are the major pollutants in the environment and should move ahead with renewable energy solutions and strategies. Transportation has been called as the primary source of air pollution that can be done away by adopting cleaner fuels and using renewable sources of energy. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to overhaul the waste management system and the makings of a stringent industrial regime if we wish to protect our environment. Better urban planning is also a need of the hour. Thus, the above few strategies are some of the ways we can have a sustainable environment post the pandemic.
 What are the impacts of COVID 19 on the environment and climate change, available at https://www.itdp.in/covid-infocus-what-are-the-impacts-of-covid-19-on-the-environment-and-climate-change/ last seen on 5/06/2020
 COVID-19 Crisis: Economic Stimulus Packages and Environmental Sustainability, available at https://www.epw.in/engage/article/covid-19-crisis-economic-stimulus-packages-and-environmental-sustainability/ last seen on 6/06/2020
 In India, life under coronavirus brings blue skies and clean air, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/india-coronavirus-delhi-clean-air-pollution/2020/04/10/ac23dd1e-783e-11ea-a311-adb1344719a9_story.html last seen on 6/06/2020
 Kartikeya Saigal, How is COVID-19 impacting the environment around us?
Team India Blogs, available at https://www.investindia.gov.in/team-india-blogs/how-covid-19-impacting-environment-around-us last seen on 6/06/2020