COVID-19: Is It Nature’s Revenge For Polluting Environment?

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The year 2020 is the darkest period of human society with the appearance of the monstrous tiny coronavirus. The virus unknown to the world before, appeared in a filthy environment in Wuhan, China, probably in the later part of 2019. 

Most probably, the affected people of China during various occasions freely intermingled with people in different parts of the world. As a result, coronavirus spread like a forest fire. During these nine to tenth months, millions of people have been affected by the virus, and lakhs of people have died in the absence of any proper medicine to cure and prevent the attack of the virus. 

The respective governments of different countries have advised people to stay at home as much as possible, wash hands frequently and maintain social distancing using face masks while venturing out.

All over the world, industrial, commercial, educational, social and religious activities have slowed down and been restricted. As a result, millions of people are unemployed and the GDP of every nation has drastically cut down. However, this calamity has brought all the nations together to develop and produce suitable medicines to control and prevent the menace of coronavirus.

Till a couple of hundred years back, the world was the most comfortable and beautiful place for all living beings particularly for human beings to enjoy life with plenty of resources under  a clean and healthy environment. But reckless living, particularly after the industrial revolution by exploiting various natural resources like water, forest, minerals, fossil fuels, etc., has resulted in the increase of the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the disappearance of most of the forest and wetlands and intense pollution of land and rivers with the appearance of all types of deadly diseases. 

Global warming due to the release of greenhouse gases is increasing to an alarming level in the atmosphere. Since the industrial revolution to date, the earth’s temperature has gone up considerably resulting in the melting of glacier and sea ice, increase in sea level, fluctuation in weather, adverse effect on freshwater resources etc. resulting in various types of calamities for all living beings particularly for human beings. These are mostly due to burning of huge quantities of fossil fuels releasing large quantities of poisonous gases like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and sulphur and fine particulate matters (PN2.5) from vehicle engines, thermal power plants and other industries., rapid degradation of forests, conversion of wetlands into residential, industrial and agricultural activities and release of untreated solid wastes and effluents to the environment. Air pollution has been mostly responsible for low birth weight, increased acute respiratory infection, asthma, lung cancer, stroke etc. Air pollution along with land and water pollution is causing sufferings and unnatural death for millions of people every year.

  • A study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated the effect of climate change on human health. It is reported that climate change was responsible for an increase of about 3% of each of diarrhea and malaria and 3.8% of dengue fever deaths worldwide in 2004. It is also stated that climate change may increase cardiorespiratory morbidity and mortality within ground-level ozone.  Exposure to high concentration of ozone results in an increase in asthma and other respiratory diseases with premature mortality. It is further reported that climate change, along with air pollution in the 21st century, is likely to adversely affect millions of people, increase in coastal flooding, short supply of freshwater, increase in malnutrition and also sufferings and premature death through deadly diseases like cancer, asthma, heart attack, dengue etc.  

There is no doubt that the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) is the deadliest pandemic in human history affecting millions of people. However, “every dark cloud has a silver lining”. The lockdowns in different parts of the world have brought down appreciably the pollution level in the atmosphere as well as in  and water bodies.

For example, in New Delhi, India, during the first phase of total lockdown, there was a significant decline in air pollution. The air quality index (AQI) was 53, which is a drastic reduction from the previous year’s figure of 176 on March 31. 

Similarly, during this period, in Mullamutha river in Pune, which runs across the city, the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) has reduced from 61.61 mg / liter to 52.07 which is close to the permissible limit of 50. This was due to limited activities in commercial, private offices, hotels, schools and colleges resulting in release of less amounts of sewage from these organizations. Similarly, the chemical oxygen demand (COD) has also dropped from 159.65 mg/liter to 67.7 during the same period, which is lower than the permissible amount. Such improvements in the purification of the environment in different parts of the world have been possible because of control in releasing fewer amounts of pollutants. 

Let us start from this stage to further improve the health of our ‘Good Earth’ by using environment-friendly technology in different socio-economic activities. Let our living on this planet be environment friendly. The following are some of the activities in this direction which should be practiced seriously by all human beings.

  1. Reduce the use of fossil fuels particularly in transport and domestic sectors as well as in some industries and thus releasing least amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
  2. All efforts should be made to harness energy from sun, wind and hydropower as well as biomass and utilising these in various areas in larger amounts.    
  3. Constructing small dams at suitable sites of rivers and harnessing hydropower from these and utiliing the water for various purposes..     
  4. Renovating the existing wetlands and developing new ones with necessary provision for harvesting rainwater in these.
  5. Greening the catchment areas and both sides of rivers through large scale plantation of economic trees and also undertaking afforestation programmes in mined and other barren areas.
  6. Proper management of solid wastes, sewage and industrial effluents to reuse or recover values instead of dumping these as such on land and water bodies.

At the same time, to keep coronavirus away each of us should strictly observe practices like wearing face masks and maintaining social distance in public places, washing hands thoroughly with soap and maintaining general sanitisation while at home. It is hoped that, by the middle of 2021 it would be possible for our scientists to develop effective medicines to fight back coronavirus. Let us also hope that, very soon we will be able to defeat COVID – 19 and lead an environment-friendly life on Mother Earth.     

 

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