Economy vs Clean air

  • IASbaba
  • May 5, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Topic: General Studies 2,3:

  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
  • Environmental Conservation

Economy vs Clean air

Context: As the lockdown exit strategies are being designed, there is pressure on governments to lower environmental standards to give impetus to growth

Do You Know?

  • According to IMF, crisis caused due to COVID-19 pandemic can trigger the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
  • At the end of March, the US announced a significant reduction in fuel efficiency standards for new cars, which could result in increased gasoline consumption by 80 billion tonnes
  • India is home to 21 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities

Dangers to Environment

  • There is a demand to lower environmental standards, suspend environmental monitoring requirements and reduce environmental enforcement, in the belief that this is necessary to rescue economic growth. 
  • It is assumed that one has to make necessary trade-offs between saving livelihoods and protecting the environment
  • COVID-19 is being used as an excuse to weaken environmental protection. 
  • Overlooking environmental protection is seen as short-term solutions in response to the present crisis

Why it is necessary to resist the temptation to overlook environment protection?

  1. Increased pollution increases vulnerability to Corona Deaths
    • People living in areas with higher levels of air pollution face increased risk of premature death from COVID-19
    • Continued air pollution directly translates to mortality under COVID-19.
  1. Pollution leads to increased mortality
    • The State of Global Air 2019 Report finds air pollution responsible for over 1.2 million deaths India each, based on 2017 data. 
    • Weakening Environmental Standards will further increase the risk to lives
  1. Pollution imposes disproportionate burden on poor
    • There is enormous inequality in the impact of the COVID-19 fallout. 
    • Those who suffer the most from air pollution are the poor, who cannot afford air-purifiers or other mitigating measures
  1. Pollution increases the risk of future epidemics
    • There is good evidence that three-quarters of the emerging infectious diseases migrate from wild or domesticated animals into humans. This includes Ebola, SARS, MERS and now COVID-19. 
    • Deforestation, industrial agriculture, illegal wildlife trade, climate change and other types of environmental degradation increase the risk of future pandemics.
  1. Weakening environmental standards may go against public opinion
    • The dramatic improvement in the quality of air and water in the most polluted cities around the world due to lockdown, has led to wide public approval
    • Weakening environmental standards to kick start economy may again lead to increased pollution levels not acceptable to public
  1. Changed drivers of value
    • Corona crisis has given a clean, healthy and sustainable environment the economic value it deserves
    • This has resulted to urgent call to action for increased focus on healthy lifestyle and sustainable development


Covid must not be used as an excuse to ignore environment protection. Rather there should be enhanced coordination at an international level to continue to work towards reduced emissions under the Paris Agreement. 

Connecting the dots:

  • Paris Climate Deal
  • Sustainable Development Goals and its target of 2030 – will be achievable?

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