Environment: Wishful Thinking during the Pandemic!

Graphic by Divyansh Bhardwaj

Educational institutes shut down. Transportation halted. Final year students couldn’t even say goodbye to their friends! Everything around us started dwindling, and we had no idea about the future. While the other side of the pandemic seemed quite optimistic. Nature started rejuvenating itself! Chirping of uncommon birds served as a potion to keep up with our mental well being. The quality of air improved. We could see a silver lining even in the testing times. But how long did this rejuvenation of nature last? Few months!

In this article, we will be unfolding the other side of the environment during the pandemic. It is less discussed yet important.

Spotting wild animals in the residential areas seemed ‘New Normal.’ Gazing at the Dhauladhar mountain ranges from miles away was no less than a treat to our eyes. We were inhaling fresh air after years! Sky was clear as there were no aviation jams. On one side, there was a section in the newspaper that discussed the severe impacts of COVID-19. But there was another section which celebrated the rejuvenation of nature. Holy rivers; Ganga and Yamuna were in their natural form. This sudden but much needed shift engrossed wishful thinking among us. We imagined that from now onwards, we would be more cautious towards our nature. But then, unlocking started happening. And we end up reading about deteriorating air quality in the same newspapers!

Nature was dancing with full joy till we were inside our homes. But as soon we broke the ceilings, everything got back to normal! I repeat, ‘Normal’ instead of ‘New Normal’ especially for our Environment!

It is surprising that during the pandemic, environmental stress was under looked. We kept on observing what was in front of us; chirping of birds, clear skies and minimal pollution. But our environment was struggling even at that time. The unconventional means of inefficient disposal of medical waste created havoc. Personal Protective Equipment Kits and extensive usage of sanitizers led to silent damage. No doubt, the level of Greenhouse Gasses dropped below average. But the appearance of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) draft questioned our stale policies. This side of the coin is still invisible to most of us. But I hope now, whoever is reading this article is able to comprehend how gross this problem is!

Another eye opener fact is the absent-mindedness and unawareness about the EIA draft. We kept sharing the ‘little dangerous knowledge’. The hashtags #saveEIA flooded the social media platforms. Unfortunately, we didn’t bother to study the draft before being a part of the flock!

Let me demystify the basic outline of the EIA draft for those who still don’t know what it is all about. For those who kept preaching without even understanding it first! There are few amendments in the draft which shorten the time window for public participation. People may not be able to raise their voices on a few suspicious pro-industrial projects. But have we even tried to read the draft? We haven’t! This is yet another disaster which is again anthropogenic in nature!

The shift to unlocking phase reduced the short-term improved Air Quality Index (AQI). Furthermore, increased vehicular and industrial emissions brought us back to square one. It’s not that we didn’t know about it. It is acting blind even after knowing it!

As per the research, we are in the middle of sixth mass extinction. There will soon be a series of catastrophic events which will wipe out a massive number of species. Homo sapiens will be among them! Last time mass extinction happened around 65 million years ago. It vanished the entire species of dinosaurs. At that time, it happened due to the collision of an asteroid to our planet. But this time, the scenario may be different! This time it will be anthropogenic unlike last time.

Although nature was able to breathe again but for a brief period of time. The environmental stress was and is still here. And if we don’t act now, it will further deplore the quality of our lives. We will face more pandemics in near future!

You may either agree or act as a blind even after knowing everything. But if we keep pacing up with this ‘normal’ then the day isn’t far when another mass extinction will happen. And the word Homo sapiens will be a part of some ancient texts just like dinosaurs!

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