World Environment Day: Impact of COVID-19 on Environment
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is spreading globally, which is not merely a health problem, but also affects the world economy and the environment in diverse ways. The global disruption caused by the COVID-19 has brought about several effects on the environment and climate. The environment from local to global scales has witnessed apparent positive and negative impacts.
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 is also being witnessed. As industries, transportation and companies have closed down it has brought a sudden drop of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions.
Water pollution is a common phenomenon of developing countries where domestic and industrial wastes are dumped into rivers without treatment but during the lockdown period, the major industrial sources of pollution have shrunk or completely stopped, which helped to reduce the pollution load.
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 but due to the closure of the most of the industries around the World the degree of noise pollution has dramatically decreased.
As the majority of industries have reduced activities, the water consumption of the industrial sector has decreased to a great extent. Besides a decrease in water consumption, there has been an exemplified clearness in water quality for the first time in 60 years due to reduced pollution.
Due to the decrease in fuel demands for factories and travel, there has been a sharp decline in utility of fuels. As combustion of fossil fuels is one of the leading causes of pollution, this decrease is a positive sign for the environment. Due to less human interference, plants are exposed to better air quality and clean water hence allow plants to grow and harvest healthy produce which is essential for improving the food cycle of the planet.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, medical waste generation is increased globally, which is a major threat to public health and environment. For sample collection of the suspected COVID-19 patients, diagnosis, treatment of huge number of patients, and disinfection purpose lots of infectious and biomedical wastes are generated from hospitals.
Increase of municipal waste (both organic and inorganic) generation has direct and indirect effects on environment like air, water and soil pollution. Due to the pandemic, quarantine policies established in many countries have led to an increase in the demand of online shopping for home delivery, which ultimately increase the amount of household wastes from shipped package materials.
Huge amount of disinfectants is applied into roads, commercial, and residential areas for sanitization to exterminate the virus. Such extensive use of disinfectants may kill non-targeted beneficial species, which may create ecological imbalance. The usage of pesticides, soaps, detergents, single-use plastic etc. has increased many-fold and is taking a heavy toll on the environment.
The use of hand sanitizers has also increased manifold. Personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, face masks, and gloves have emerged as critical safety measures during the ongoing pandemic but due to an abrupt increase in their use, the environment may face negative consequences of increased contamination in the near future.
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. Another massive impact of the coronavirus outbreak is the decline in wildlife trade due to which there has been witnessed increase in the population of wildlife species.
“The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.” – Lady Bird Johnson
(The author is Principal (I/C), Abhedananda Home- Higher Secondary Institution for Specially-abled Children, Solina, Rambagh)