At one point in April, Nature was healing itself and showing signs of hope in the middle of a frightful once-in-a-century pandemic. Only because of 4 billion human beings were confined to their homes. The effects on the environment were striking. The improvement in the air quality in various cities, teeming wildlife, clearer rivers. Increase in migrating birds and animals in various urban areas in many parts of the world. However, there is still a tensed way to look at it. Will this sudden improvement in the environment is merely a temporary blip?
According to the recent study published in the Scientific Journal Nature, the daily CO2 emissions are already going back to its pre-pandemic levels. But what’s more worrisome is the controversy over the Modi’s government in the process of making changes in the Country’s Environment Law with its draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020, but it actually seems like it is further diluted to the little environmental protection with an increase of development projects assigned to that areas. Back in 2014, the forest land in Nagaland has been given to the mining and power projects. There are two major changes expected in the new draft are provisions for the post-facto clearance of the project, even if they are illegally commenced, and, an abandoning of the public trust doctrine.
COVID-19 has opened our eyes and showed a way to reset our path. But whatever decision will be made in terms of environmental transition should not affect the livelihood of poor people.
Dubash, a member of the group that developed India’s low carbon strategy for inclusive growth, said that “Deindustrialization isn’t an option for clean air. We can’t take environmental gains on the back of livelihood losses.”
It’s a complex thing! But we can always create an alternative. For instance, France has put conditions on airlines. Eventually, what happen in the past few months with the improvement of India’s air, water, and forest show a path to new possibilities.
A deep dive in the environmental gains
There was a drastic improvement in the air quality across India during the lockdown, due to complete pause to construction, transport, and various industries. India has enlisted 122 non-attainment cities that does not meet the Air Quality Standards under the National Clean Air program. But now they have shown some improvement temporarily. For instance, Nagpur, there is a sharp decline in SO2 and NO2 levels, and Mumbai showed a drop in particulate matters and other pollutants. Apparently, it looks like the economy slow down brings a great amount of environmental gain. If such improvements will be done for the long run, Imagine how good it will bring to the Air quality. The strict protocols should be in place backed up by statutory provisions, to implement the National Clean Air Programme. It measures should be taken as soon as possible, otherwise, if the situation goes out of hand with the post-pandemic returning back to the same level. It could become harmful!
Due to reduced human activities, it was said that Indian Rivers known as – The Yamuna, The Ganga, Hindon, and The Cauvery – were found cleaner than ever before. The major reason behind this is the lack of industrial effluents entering the rivers due to the closure of industries. There are other factors as well, such as high snowfall melting with summer, good rainfall, stopping of sand mining, reduction in water irrigation, and reduction in cultural activities like bathing, puja, etc. The Ganga’s river in Varanasi was improved in both quality and color with a dissolved oxygen level of 8.7mg per liter upstream and 8.1mg per liter downstream. There was Gigantic Dolphin- that appears only in freshwater- was found in Kolkata ghats after many decades.
The states of forests
There was better visibility in wildlife during a pandemic due to a lack of human interference. This has been the longest period when there were no tourism activities in the forest, which actually gives wildlife animal, freedom. An unrestricted movement.
However, there is a great impact of lockdown on environmental activities but still, some actions are needed to be taken, though, rivers are cleaner but their water quality is no-where near good; skies are bluer but the particulate matter is still largely.
Now is the time for the government to make some decisions on environmental gain. If the window of opportunities opens, then it can close in no time.