Did COVID-19 bring a knock to our Environmental Laws?

By- Muskaan Singh

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a huge impact on one and all be it, common migrants, from different states to huge industries running the economy of our country; but one and all Coronavirus has impacted one and all! Although, the major concerns include; the movement of migrants, lower economy, and people being stuck at home with no source of income, as reported by Centre of Monitoring Indian Economy[1], 20.7% of people in India are unemployed right now.

The Corona virus might have had a negative impact on the whole world but it definitely had a positive impact on our environment. People in metropolitan cities finally could breathe fresh air (provided they stay indoors in this global pandemic). The Industries were stopped, cars were not moving, huge factories were at a halt; this is when the environment took a toll on us. All the carbon emissions were dropped by 30% in the month of April[2] in India, which has been a huge deal as India was considered one of the most polluted nations in the world before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coal in India; bore a crunch

As the factories were not working, neither were the industries; the coal production in India was also at a halt, the thermal energy used in march fell by 15% in March and by 31% in the first three weeks of April. The drop percentage is quite high as compared to previous years where the coal usage would increase by 7.2% every year.

Oil demand in India; down to negative

Oil demand like all other natural sources reduced severely, the crude oil demand reduced by 5.9%, and a 5.2% drop in natural gas. The reduction in oil demand is also in the flattening of the curve of the environment.

CO2 emission down by a whopping 30%

The carbon emission in India fell to a drastic percentage, directly positively affecting the environment. The environment is our reward from the natural world. As said by Antoine De Saint-ExuperyWe did not inherit the Earth from our parents, we have borrowed it from our children” Before the COVID-19 pandemic were we doing justice to our Earth? Carbon emissions reaching heights, wildlife being hunted and poached, aquatic life dying due to water pollution, ancient million years old coral reefs dying, trees being cut for accommodating the new and everyday growing population; the list deems endless if we come to ways we have exploited earth for our vicious benefits.

In India on 22nd March 2020, ‘Janta Curfew’ was imposed by The Prime Minister of India; following which there was a significant drop in pollution levels in big metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata wherein the Air Quality Index (AQI) stayed within two digits. Similarly, in the United States once the lock down was imposed in different stated of America, People started breathing cleaner air. Their Congress in 1970 passed the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act for them. These acts were truly implemented when the corona virus lock down was imposed in the country.

These acts in the United States were basically invisible once implemented but after some protest and effect, they stuck filters on smokestacks, car exhaust, and factory pipes. The Environment Protection Agency had to send in photos of how filthy everything was but once things fell into place things got better there!

India since July 2014, that is since last six years has approved more than 270 projects in and about the most protected areas of India i.e. biodiversity hotspots, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries. But at the same time, while approving such orders Indian Government has also warned the stakeholders that the habitat and eco-system of Indian biodiversity are not to be meddled with as it can not only damage the flora and fauna of the country but also pose a possible threat to public health.

The changing habitat and causing destruction to it has caused a changing pattern in infectious diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been warning us about this for years; they have issued a warning a long time ago not to meddle with the bio life or else humanity will be at danger. Zoonotic diseases are diseases that spread from animals to humans such as rabies, Nipah, Ebola, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), and COVID-19.

Scientists believed that the novel coronavirus which is sister disease of SARS is likely to be jumped from bats to humans. Can we now see how animals have entered our lives and destroyed it? Our chances of meeting animal diseases are now more when we have entered their habitats and biodiversity in the name of our economic and commercial growth.

Now that we have entered the Unlock phase 2.0 the government now has great responsibly in enhancing our economy which has dipped an all-time low. Now the government must choose between the economy and the environment. India has planned a huge project for the citizens of India giving livelihood to many and giving rise to the economy. These projects are the projects which will invade our biodiversity; these are the projects wherein the flora and fauna of the country will be at stake. Even though the government has issued guidelines, but the question is how many shareholders will follow these guidelines?

Well, now that the Government of India must keep in the mind our down falling economy it will definitely take steps and measures to keep with the economy. But all we have to say is that, don’t let go of this beautiful change which has taken place during the course of lockdown due to Coronavirus. Instead, use this as a head start; now it will be our nation’s responsibility to take care of our environment which has taken its shape. I mean when can you imagine dolphins swimming near Marine Drive in Mumbai one of the busiest cities in India; or when can you expect to wake up one day in Jalandhar, Punjab, and be able to see the Himalayan range from your home. These are miracles that have happened after a long pause, a pause from our daily day to day activities. Now we have to make sure how to improve our economy without neglecting our environment.

[1] India Unemployment rate-CMIE, 10 June 2020

[2] Analysis: India’s CO2 emissions fall for first time in four decades amid coronavirus, Carbon Brief, 12 May 2020


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