We all are aware of the saying that a coin has two sides. Most of us have even experienced this in our lives. But with the current situation of the world, every human is witnessing this around their environment. Just like the two sides of a coin, coronavirus has different impacts on both humans and the environment. On one hand, coronavirus has been very catastrophic for humans but on the other hand, has proved to be an elixir for the environment in several ways. This is the first time in many decades that humans have stayed indoors for such a long period. With the humans inside their homes, nature found some alone time to rejuvenate in silence.
Coronavirus clearly has a beneficial impact on the air quality due to shut down of economic activities and tourism and ban on mobilization as a result of lockdown. The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CRECA) reported that methods to contain the spread of Coronavirus, such as quarantines and travel bans resulted in a 25 percent reduction of carbon emission in China. Not only in China, but the improved air quality can be seen all over the world. Between 1 January and 11 March 2020, the European Space Agency (ESA) observed a marked decline in nitrous oxide emissions from cars, power plants, and factories in the Po Valley region in northern Italy, coinciding with lockdowns in the region.
Delhi, including many other cities, also saw a massive improvement in its Air Quality Index (AQI), which was a result of the nationwide lockdown of 4 months. Likewise, there has been a significant decline in the noise pollution level.
This reduction is caused due to the decrease in the use of private as well as public transportation during the lockdown.
Further, talking about another essential element of the environment, water also experienced noticeable improvement. The best example can be seen in Venice city, where the water got so clear that aquatic life again became visible after many years.
The increase in water clarity was due to the settling of sediment that is disturbed by boat traffic and also the decrease in air pollution along the waterways. Another visible example is present in India. Despite spending millions to clean the Ganga river for many decades, there could not be a better solution than COVID-19. The rejuvenated Ganga can be seen shimmering at Varanasi Ghats. As the pandemic prevails, beaches are spotted with no or a countable number of tourists. This has caused a notable change in the appearance of many beaches in the world. For example, beaches like those of Acapulco (Mexico), Barcelona (Spain), or Salinas (Ecuador) now look cleaner and with crystal clear waters.
Moreover, the method of lockdown to curb the COVID-19 has also proved to be beneficial for wild animals. Noticing the less intervention from humans, some animals decided to overcome their shy behavior. There have been many incidents where animals like deer, lion, tigers, etc. can be seen roaming freely on the roads or near residential areas. However, this benefit will not be for all animals. Conservationists expect that African countries will experience a massive surge in bushmeat poaching. Matt Brown of the Nature Conservancy said that "When people don't have any other alternative for income, our prediction -- and we're seeing this in South Africa -- is that poaching will go up for high-value products like rhino horn and ivory."
Despite having these many advantages, one cannot neglect some of the problems it has generated for nature. Firstly, the waste generated during the pandemic cannot be treated as effectively as it used to be. Now that every outdoor activity has the risk of causing COVID, it has become very difficult to treat the waste generated from the household and the hospitals. As doctors are supposed to wear a PPE kit for safety, there is a large amount of waste generated, and managing it efficiently remains a challenge.
Secondly, the fear of this virus forced many organizations, which are associated with recycling, to stop its activities for an unforeseen period. The need for saving nature now is more than ever, but the pandemic is becoming an obstacle. It has somehow also been a problem for sustainable development. Though, being good for the nature, coronavirus can become one of the main reasons for the sudden increase in the pollution level. Almost every country has had a lockdown, which directly affected their economies and in the process of pumping up their economic activities, the pressure on nature will be enormous.
Even after the six months of the corona outbreak, no one has an exact answer for “where the coronavirus originated from?” However, when someone says that “nature is sending us a clear message”, people tend to believe in this, especially after considering the number of earthquakes India has suffered in a short time. Covid-19 has given people a little taste of how animals feel living in the cage. Over and over nature always finds a way to tell humans that no matter how advanced they could be in technology, they can never win over nature. Yes, the environment has always served us but unless we respect that serving, it will remind us of our place every time with the pandemic like this. The virus can be a new research topic for scientists but for the environmentalists, this is more than just a wakeup call.