COVID-19 Implications for the Environment and Sustainability

Dr. Ranjan Roy

26th June, 2020 01:11:18 printer

COVID-19 Implications for the Environment and Sustainability

 

The coronavirus (Covid-19) continues to wreak havoc on Bangladesh. The global pandemic has brought long-lasting implications for human life and other sectors, including environment and climate; besides broken the national (and global) health and economic order.

One message is clear. Environment—collectively encompasses natural and artificial components of the surroundings—must be considered “rightly” in providing the response and recovery of COVID-19. Broadly, sustainable development must be mainstreamed in designing short-, medium- and long-term planning for using the COVID-19 stimulus package.

Initial research findings indicate a key reason of coronavirus emergence is the potentially harmful interactions between human and wildlife. Extracting natural resource (plant, forest, and other species) in an enormous scale creates severe threats to many wild animals. Studies show that HIV virus comes from monkey, avian flu originates from bird, swine flu comes from pig, SARS &Ebola virus emerges from bat, and recently coronavirus transmits from bat. This scenario clearly demonstrates that most of the cases human being infected by many diseases transmit from wild animals.

The major reason of this infection is largely exploiting trees, forest, and other natural resources. As a result of the exploitation, wild animals are losing their habitats. Wild animals are bound to come close to human habitats as they have no alternatives and they play roles in spreading diseases, although there are some other factors responsible for transmitting the germs of infectious diseases.

 

Scientists say we can navigate many changes in wild world due to climate change, for instance, habitats of wild animals. Other phenomena are altering as well, like what wildlife eat, who consumes them, their migration, breeding, and number.

 

About 55 percent people live in cities globally. Wild animals are living in big cities around the world. Like, rat, fox, different birds, monkey, bat, and other lives in city parks. These wild animals usually have food what human being throws. Consequently, cities have been a centre point of transmitting various diseases.

 

Several institutions have assessed short-, medium- and long-term environmental challenges of COVID-19 and drawn potential solutions. Main short-term solutions include managing medical waste, mitigating air pollution, and fostering sustainable lifestyle. Immediate actions are needed for these long-term challenges.

 

Institutional weakness of managing medical waste is obvious. To dispose different medicals and hospitals’ waste, governments employs Bangladesh Medical Waste Management and Processing Rules 2008 (BMWPR). There are no other legislation pertaining to management and processing of medical wastes.

 

According to the BMWPR Rules 8, it is advised that seven divisions must have damping zones to dispose and manage medical waste; however, only Dhaka has a damping zone, which is very inadequate for increasing number of hospitals and medical centres.

In the time of corona pandemic, medical waste has substantially augmented due to increasingly using some specific medical supplies, like face masks and hand gloves. Necessary actions are indispensable to manage these wastes.

 

The guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Basel Convention can be applied for managing and processing medical waste. Key guidelines include rightly identification, separation, collection, transportation, treating and disposal. Moreover, workers’ personal protection and proper training must be ensured.

 

Medical waste perpetuates environmental and air pollution. Air pollution has “deadly link” with COVID-19 and COVID-19 death rates. Due to air pollution, many people in this country have been infected by many diseases such as diabetics, high blood pressure, and lung cancer.

 

In the context of increasing COVID-19 infection, determining sustainable solutions for air pollution and their effective implementation are urgent. Pollution protection system of coal power plants are predominantly very weak that needs immediate actions to curb.

 

The UN Environment’s report ‘Air Pollution in Asia and the Pacific: Science-based solutions’ devised 25 measures, including clean cooking, controlling industrial emissions, using renewables to produce power, and so on. This report demonstrates employing these measures not only ensure clean air but also bring positive impacts on health, climate, and sustainable socio-economic development. Governments could implement many of these measures.

 

Due to lockdown, people are advised to work from home, teleworking and/or telecommunicating. For the sake of maintaining social distance, people are dependent on online for shopping, marketing, selling, governing and diplomacy. The practices and habits substantially reduce greenhouse emissions.

 

Experts underscored the significance of these practices and habits and advised to draw means how to institutionalise these habits. A report entitled ‘1.5Degree Lifestyles: Targets and options for reducing lifestyle carbon footprints’ can be an authoritative source for following, imitating, and implementing these practices in a sustainable manner, which can lead to carbon neutrality and decarbonisation.

 

Mid-term initiatives for the post-COVID-19 would be determining strategy for the “green recovery” and its proper implementation. Green recovery is a kind f economic recovery that integrate climate actions and sustainable development. The UN Secretary, in the 11th Peterberg Climate Dialogue, underlined the necessity of the green recovery. This recovery would be instrumental for “transformative change,” for building sustainable society, he adds.

 

Governments have been offered a whopping amount of stimulus corona package to protect live, livelihood and businesses. The authority must discourage traditional stimulus utilisation that lead to short-term economic recovery. Stimulus has to be built resilient and decarbonised society.

 

Considering the significance of environment, addressing OVID-19 challenges require long-term planning for promoting resilient and sustainable development. In that case, it is needed to identify the root cause of coronavirus.

 

Studies show climate change and huge exploitation of ecosystems and biodiversity has connections to the COVID-19 infection and transmission. Therefore, there is no way to adopt sustainable development approaches and integrated development models to survive. These models signify social, economic and environmental issues in an equal manner.

 

Cities are key centres of economic activities; simultaneously, cities are hub of pollutions. City people are also more infected by COVID-19. That is why city development must need long-term and sustainable planning, like promoting a city transportation (like Bicycle lane) that has low cost and low emissions.

 

Evidence confirmed that climate has indirect and direct influence to spread communicable diseases. COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates how fragile the society, governance, and other system (private hospitals) are to contain it? It is, therefore, crucial to rethink about adaptation planning and implementation since Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to climate change. Focus must be given to build community resilience, enhance climate empowerment, and strengthen governance from local to national levels.

 

More research is required for better understanding the relationships between the environment and coronavirus transmission. However, COVID-19 explicitly demonstrated that crossing biophysical threshold could have disastrous consequences for humanity. Hence, development activities must be environment-friendly; otherwise, society will encounter more catastrophic situations in the near future.

 

In sum, it is indispensable to devise strategies and implement necessary actions so that corona stimulus package support climate-compatible development and more broadly, foster environment-friendly development.

 

The writer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural Extension and Information System, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, Dhaka-1207. E-mail: [email protected]


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