COVID-19 AND ITS IMPACT ON ENVIRONMENT
By MUZAMIL ARIF
The global outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is affecting every part of human lives, including the physical world. The measures taken to control the spread of the virus and the slowdown of economic activities have significant effects on the environment.The global disruption caused by the COVID-19 has brought about several effects on the environment and climate. Due to movement restriction and a significant slowdown of social and economic activities, air quality has improved in many cities with a reduction in water pollution in different parts of the world. Besides, increased use of PPE (e.g., face mask, hand gloves etc.), their haphazard disposal, and generation of a huge amount of hospital waste has negative impacts on the environment. The major sectors contributing to air pollution are transport, industries, power plants, construction activities, biomass burning, road dust resuspension and residential activities. In addition, certain activities such as operation of DG sets, restaurant, landfill fires, etc. also contribute to air pollution. Under the nationwide lockdown, all transport services road, air and rail were suspended with exceptions for essential services. Educational institutions, industrial establishments and hospitality services were also suspended. As a result, air quality improvement has been noted in many towns and cities across the world. Due to non-functioning of industries, industrial waste emission has decreased to a large extent. Vehicles are hardly found on the roads resulting in almost zero emission of green-house gases and toxic tiny suspended particles to the environment. Due to lesser demand of power in industries, use of fossil fuels or conventional energy sources have been lowered considerably. Ecosystems are being greatly recovered. In many big cities, the inhabitants are experiencing a clear sky for the first time in their lives. The pollution level in tourist spots such as forests, sea beaches, hill areas, etc. is also shrinking largely. Ozone layer has been found to have revived to some extent. The pandemic has displayed its contrasting consequence on human civilization, in the sense that, on one hand, it has caused worldwide panic situation, but created a very positive impact on the world environment onthe other.
(1)–POSATIVE IMPACTS OF THE PANDEMIC ON THE ENVIRONMENT
REDUCTION OF AIR, WATER AND NOISE POLLUTION:-
Water pollution is a common phenomenon of a developing country like India, and Bangladesh, where domestic and industrial wastes are dumped into rivers without treatment. During the lockdown period, the major industrial sources of pollution have shrunk or completely stopped, which helped to reduce the pollution load For instance, the river Ganga and Yamuna have reached a significant level of purity due to the absence of industrial pollution on the days of lockdown in India. It is found that, among the 36 real-time monitoring stations of river Ganga, water from 27 stations met the permissible limit. This improvement of water quality at Haridwar and Rishikesh was ascribed to the sudden drop of the number of visitors and 500% reduction of sewage and industrial effluents.
Noise pollution is the elevated levels of sound, generated from different human activities (e.g., machines, vehicles, construction work), which may lead to adverse effects in human and other living organisms. Usually, noise negatively effects on physiological health, along with cardiovascular disorders, hypertension, and sleep shortness of human. It is reported that, globally around 360 million people are prone to hearing loss due to noise pollution. World Health Organization predicted that in Europe alone, over 100 million people are exposed to high noise levels, above the recommended limit (WHO, 2012). Moreover, anthropogenic noise pollution has adverse impacts on wildlife through the changing balance in predator and prey detection and avoidance. Unwanted noise also negatively effects on the invertebrates, that help to control environmental processes which are vital for the balance of the ecosystem. However, the quarantine and lockdown measures mandate that people stay at home and reduced economic activities and communication worldwide, which ultimately reduced noise level in most cities. For instance, noise level of Delhi the capital of India, is reduced drastically around 40-50% in the recent lockdown period.
Air pollution is a major threat to human health. It is directly related to economic activities such as transportation, power generation, industry, agriculture and domestic energy use for heating and cooking.While most lockdowns have directly and substantially reduced transportation and industrial activity, the impact of lockdowns on agriculture, domestic energy use and power generation are often indirect and more complex.While transportation and industrial activities are the main sources of pollution in urban areas of developed countries, including North America and Europe, residential energy use, agriculture and power generation are among the dominant sources of air pollution in many urban areas of Asia, South America and Africa.As industries, transportation and companies have closed down, it has brought a sudden drop of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions. Compared with this time of last year, levels of air pollution in Ney York has reduced by nearly 50% because of measures taken to control the virus.
(2)–NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF THE PANDEMIC ON THE ENVIRONMENT
The drastically increasing amount of domestic and medical waste is one of the key negative outcomes of COVID-19. Coronavirus waste became a new form of global pollution. The adopted quarantine, isolation, and social distancing led to a corresponding increase in the amount of solid household waste (15-25%) and a significant increase in the generation of medical waste in healthcare institutions. From the beginning of 2020, a huge amount of disinfectants has been applied to roads, commercial, and residential areas to exterminate the COVID-19 virus. These disinfectants can kill non-targeted beneficial species and create ecological imbalance. Much of the disinfectants and antiseptics, such as hand soap which contains a high percentage of the hormone-disrupting pesticide Triclosan (TSC – Triclosan converts to dioxin, a highly toxic compound when exposed to sunlight), is naturally finding its way into our water systems.
With increasing home deliveries during the lockdown, meals and online shopping surged which requires a lot of plastic packaging.. Due to an increase in health concerns, food retailers have resumed using single-use plastic bags at checkout points instead of reusable paper bags which was slowly becoming a norm before the pandemic.Production and disposal of surgical masks, gloves, protective equipment, and body bags have increased due to the COVID-19 crisis but all the waste generated ends up adding on the landfills and the environment.On average, 8 million tonnes of plastic trash, that is 30 times as heavy as The Statue of Liberty, leaks into the ocean annually and this rate is getting worse every passing year. Due to a sharp decline in the availability of cargo transportation services, the export and imports of various essential commodities have come to a standstill. Severe cuts in agriculture and fishery export levels have led to wastage of large quantities of produce.
The decline in ecotourism activity has led to an increase in unemployment in the regions frequented by tourists hence, to manage their income, there has been a rise in illegal deforestation, fishing, and wildlife hunting.Many local waste recycling centres have suspended their activities over the fear of virus circulation in the recycling centres. Environmental protection workers at national parks, land, marine conservation zones were required to stay at home during lockdown resulting in leaving these areas unmonitored.
MUZAMIL ARIF BSc Student From Govt. Degree College Bhaderwah E.Mail:- firstname.lastname@example.org