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Ensuring environment sustainability post COVID-19 lockdown 

  • IASbaba
  • May 15, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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HEALTH/ENVIRONMENT

Topic: General Studies 2 & 3:

  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
  • Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Ensuring environment sustainability post COVID-19 lockdown 

Context:

  • As we all know, the lockdown imposed to contain COVID-19 pandemic has caused a negative impact on the livelihood of the people. 
  • However, it had a positive impact on the environment.
  • The air and water quality improved dramatically since major industrial activities were brought to halt and material consumption, water usage and waste production were reduced. 
  • The pre-Covid-19 growth was based on blind exploitation of natural resources. 
  • The lockdown has given a rare opportunity to move towards the principles of sustainable development in every human action including public policy making. 

In earlier posts, we have discussed about economy & clean air and also coronavirus impact on Environment. Following on the same lines, this editorial focuses on 

  1. Effects of the lockdown
  2. Ways to maintain the sustainability

Effects of Economic Shutdown on Environment

  • Data from the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) shows that pollution level in the Ganges water has significantly reduced.
  • Its Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and total coliform concentration has also fallen indicating improved water quality.
  • Similar positive developments have been reported for the Yamuna.
  • There are several reports that reflect the improved air quality:
    • The Delhi/NCR pollution level has significantly reduced.
    • Dhauladhar ranges from Jalandhar, Mt. Kanchenjunga from Siliguri and Mt. Everest from parts of Bihar were recently visible. 
  • Groundwater levels improved with the reduced industrial and commercial activity.
  • Municipal solid waste (MSW) generation got reduced remarkably. 

Ways to Maintain this Sustainability 

Nature-Based Solution (NBS):

  • It refers to the sustainable use of nature for tackling socio-environmental challenges, such as climate change, water security, human health, and disaster risk management.
  • Example of NBS may include:
    • Restoration of mangroves 
    • Green roofs or walls in cities to moderate the impact of high temperatures.
    • Upsloping vegetation to reduce the risks of landslides.
    • Creating lesser concrete areas to help replenish groundwater in regions facing water scarcity.
  • NBS are an essential component of the overall global effort to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Bio-composites

  • These are structures that have naturally occurring minerals woven together into a matrix of natural fibres, such as cellulose and lignin.
  • Their products are being used as environmentally superior alternatives to traditional raw materials such as wood and plastic due to their strength, lower weight and recyclability.  
  • For example, starch-based clay nanocomposites can be a possible alternative for food packaging. 

Effective Waste Management

  • Waste segregation across urban India at household-level. 
  • Generating organic manure and megawatts of bioenergy through cost-effective means by using bio – recycling methods like vermicomposting. 
  • For the water-heavy industries of pharmaceuticals, paper, food and beverage, adopting best practices in minimising water consumption would progress them towards Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD).
  • Bio-treatment of industrial effluents such as chemicals, detergents and toxic sludge can also be done, but there must be mandatory compliance to keep the rivers clean.

Building Natural Infrastructure

  • It is defined as a strategically planned and managed network of natural lands that conserves or enhances ecosystem values and provides associated benefits to human populations.
  • Establishing interconnected networks of green spaces can be one of the ways of building natural Infrastructure. 
  • Example: Concept of biosphere reserves. It incorporates core protected areas for nature conservation and buffer zones and transition areas where people live and work in a sustainable way.

Conclusion

For long-term sustenance, bringing behavioural changes like sustainable consumption, mindful wastage is of utmost importance. 

Connecting the dots :

  • Lockdown and coronavirus will help achieve sustainable development goals earlier than the targeted years. Analyse. 
  • In what ways has COVID-19 pandemic affected the livelihood of the people and the environment? Examine. 

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