Covid-19: An opportunity to review green policies – analysis
The two main emotions that India is witnessing these days, thanks to the coronavirus-induced crisis, are fear and happiness. The first is due to the panic caused by the virus and the strong impact it has had on the poor and the economy. At the same time, there is some relief in the impact on the environment; Bodies of air and water are now cleaner, and snow-capped mountains are visible from cities in the foothills.
But are these a cause for celebration? Many commentators point out that these developments are only a short-lived reality. When the closing is over, everything will go on as usual, and we won’t stop to remember this magical interlude.
However, the past two months have made us very aware of the links between the destruction of the ecosystem and the systematic looting of the natural environment to the coronavirus crisis. These observations are not new, but they are now gaining ground because we are collectively facing a crisis. Zoonotic diseases are known to arise from anthropogenic activities, linked to unsustainable economic practices of looting various ecosystems through deforestation, mining, and illegal wildlife trade. Coronavirus (Covid-19) disease, such as avian influenza, Ebola, nipah, and Zika, originates from excessive human influence in natural settings. The recent call by Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Acting Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, to ban wildlife markets is testament to this.
A return to business as always will be suicidal. A balance must now be struck in how humans and other living things, as well as natural ecosystems, survive, if not thrive, in each other’s company. The concept of “One Health” for humans, animals and ecosystems can function as a guide for nations.
Based on discussions on biodiversity and ecosystem health, the World Health Organization defines “One Health” as “an approach to design and implement programs, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better results. public health outcomes. “The areas of work in which the” One health “approach is particularly relevant, says the WHO, is” food security, the control of zoonoses (diseases that can spread between animals and humans .. .) and the fight against antibiotic resistance. “We believe that” One Health “should become a key pillar of India’s environmental policy.
A recent European Commission report highlights the links between coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and the climate crisis. The report noted: “Experts suggest that degraded habitats coupled with warmer weather may promote higher risks of disease transmission, as pathogens spread more easily to livestock and humans. Therefore, it is important, now more than ever before, addressing the multiple threats that often interact with ecosystems and wildlife to cushion the risk of future pandemics, as well as preserve and enhance their role as carbon sinks and in climate adaptation ”
Realigning the focus of environmental policy with the concept of “One Health” will be transformative. It will prioritize the resilience of ecosystems, as well as the relationships of humans and other living things with their ecosystems, instead of focusing on solutions such as pollution control.
Such transformative change also requires new types of partnerships and alliances between government actors, civil society, and the private sector. To prepare an action plan, the participation of environmentalists, conservationists and doctors will be essential. The ministries of environment, forests, climate change, and family health and well-being should work to develop and implement this transformative agenda.
There are some elements of this plan in the Government of India programs, but these need to be articulated and applied more emphatically. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought untold misery. But it has given us an unexpected gift: the ability to hit the planet’s reset button. We could celebrate the moment by taking pictures of peacocks on our terraces, but we should not miss the opportunity for a large-scale review of our environmental policies.
Bharati Chaturvedi is founder and director of the Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group.
Ashish Chaturvedi is the director, Climate Change, GIZ, India.
The opinions expressed are personal.