INDIA. COVID-19 certainly caused a lot of damage not only in people’s lives but also facilitated economic catastrophes in almost every sector from manufacturing to travel, medical, hospitality, airlines, world trade, and others. There has been a collective Deja Vu effect due to the similarities with the pandemic of 1918-1920 when people were also forced to wear a protective mask, practice social distancing, and live an isolated life.
Environmental effects are evident. However, like many unexpected catastrophes, the current pandemic offers an environmental silver lining. There has been a sudden drop in carbon emissions and the air has become strikingly clear in the world´s most polluted cities. Satellite imagery and data from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), like the Sentinel-5P, showed a significant drop in gases like nitrogen dioxide, methane, and carbon dioxide.
Climate change on pause? This sudden drop in industrial pollution and human traffic led to the reemergence of wildlife and cleaner waters in our lakes, rivers, and oceans. Multiple reports appeared involving sightings of endangered cats. Sea turtles were spotted laying eggs on beaches they once avoided (such as the coast of the Bay of Bengal), due to the low levels of human interference and light pollution. Another unexpected side effect could be seen in Venice, Italy, where the normally cloudy canals were transformed into crystal clear water where you could see fish swimming.
Blue skies, mountains, and other unusual sightings caused a stir on the Internet. The Natural Resources Defense Council also mentioned that some people in India were seeing the Himalayas for the first time due to the veil of air pollution lifting. Indian social media also went wild over footage of a stag scampering through a city in Uttarakhand.
A global effort is needed going forward. In the wake of COVID-19 comes substantial evidence that human-induced climate change can, in fact, be controlled. However, it will take a global effort to continue seeing these positive effects as life returns to normal. People are now appreciating the difference in what the air and general quality of life would be like if there was less industrial pollution.
Environmental scientists are more vocal than ever about the important lessons we can take from the impact of COVID-19 on the environment, like the reduction of waste, emissions, and our overall carbon footprint.