Shah Khalid Shah Jee
BAJAUR: Pakistan and other countries took various measures to prevent the Corona epidemic from spreading. Lockdown was also imposed with other SOPs but it was not a complete lockdown as it was in some other countries. It was, rather, a smart lockdown. Despite these preventive measures, the Coronavirus has affected all walks of life, including humans, and has had a profound effect on the world. Hayat Ali an Environmentalist and forestry expert deeply monitors the effects of measures taken during the Coronavirus on the environment. Hayat Ali explained that all the things around us like air, water, mountains, buildings, trees, lights etc, are called the environment. The measures taken to prevent the Coronavirus have been very good for the environment and have had a positive impact on it. But these effects are not direct but indirect. Hayat Ali described these effects on the environment separately. Some of his key points are highlighted below.
Reduction of air pollution:
Every person in our society seems to be engaged in some activity, whether it is in the field of agriculture, working in offices, factories, or transportation, or from home. When vehicles are used in one form or another, they emit carbon dioxide. At the same time, running machinery in factories also emits large amounts of toxic gases. This happens not only in our country but all over the world and the result is air pollution. Protections that would reduce air pollution have not been implemented strongly enough. Since the beginning of the Corona epidemic, lockdowns and other measures have led to a significant reduction in air pollution, not only in Pakistan but all over the world. A Chinese organization regularly issues an air pollution report called “Air Quality Index.” The organization released a report in December 2019 stating that the level of suspended particles in the air was 231. The level of suspended particles in the report released in May-June 2020 was 92, which is a huge difference. No special studies like this one have been done in our area but the positive results are felt here as well.
Impact on forests:
Humans do severe damage to forests in the form of deforestation. This deforestation occurs when humans have complete freedom to go into the forests and do what they want. However, due to the Coronavirus, humans have been confined to their homes, which have also limited their daily activities. It has not been easy for them to go to the forest and cut down trees as it was before, whether for their domestic needs or for commercial purposes. As a result, forests have been growing. The ground has been sown and new plants have grown and now have a good chance to continue growing successfully. At the same time, the number of medicinal plants used in medicine has increased. According to Hayat Ali, there is no survey being conducted right now to learn about the exact impact of the Coronavirus on forests and the environment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
But Khyber Pakhtunkhwa forest officials, meteorologists and climate change ministers and other NGOs environmental experts who are involved in environmental protection, have been observing the changes firsthand. Speaking with them about the effects of the Coronavirus on forests and the environment has been very informative. They shared information with me about ways the Coronavirus has had a positive effect on forests. According to Global Forest Watchdog, an organization working for the protection of forests, 1700 hectares of forest per year are being deforested in the Amazon. After the implementation of Coronavirus control measures, deforestation in the world’s forests has reduced by 70%.
Increase in water reserves and reduction in pollution:
The Coronavirus has increased our water reserves and water in rivers and this has also been observed globally. All researchers agree that there has been a significant increase in water resources during the Coronavirus and that pollution has decreased. For example, the Italian city of Venice is one of the most beautiful and historical cities in Europe and in the world to which millions of tourists from different countries visit every year. Most of the traffic in Venice is in canals, boats and small ships, which pollute the canals and lower their water levels. But Italy has taken drastic measures to stem the spread of the Coronavirus, including a complete lockdown that lasted several months, halting the influx of foreign tourists. Locals have also fled. There was a strict ban on all activities because Italy was one of the country’s most affected by the Coronavirus.
An international organization working on water pollution and conservation has released a report stating that water pollution in Venice has come down to zero and water levels have risen. Similar effects have occurred in other countries. But if we look at our province and Malakand division, the same situation is being seen in Swat River and Panjkora. Hayat Ali said that he is from Swat and has observed the Swat River very closely. During the lockdown and other measures, the influx of tourists from outside the area stopped so all the hotels were closed. There was less garbage, which is usually thrown in the river. In addition, other kinds of pollution that usually are caused by the local population have also been reduced. In many ways, the Swat River has remained safe from pollution since the measures to control the virus began. Aquatic life has also been protected.
Effects on wildlife:
The health of wildlife is closely linked to the environment. The most positive effect of preventive measures against the Coronavirus has been on wildlife. Wildlife is regularly harmed by humans and hunted down mercilessly. But because of the Coronavirus, wildlife is being protected from suffering caused by humans. Not only have the animals survived, but their offspring have grown and became so brave that they have moved into areas populated with humans without fear. There are even reports that monkeys and many rare birds are swimming in the pool at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad. Leopards and other animals have been spotted on public highways. Similar reports have come from other parts of the world as well. So the lockdown due to the Coronavirus has been a golden time for wildlife as well.
Effects on bees:
The honeybee business has become a lucrative business today. According to Maulana Khanzeb, a honey trader, one million people in Pakistan are involved in this business, most of them from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The annual production of honey in Pakistan is 30,000 tons. For the past several years, bees have been struggling to find flowers (Floras) to produce honey due to climate change and man-made pollution. But beekeeping has also experienced far-reaching positive effects as a result of Coronavirus prevention measures. According to Hayat Ali, a recent report has revealed that the number of flowers available for bees has increased during lockdown and other precautions to prevent Coronavirus, making it easier for bees to make honey. More flowers (Floras) have been found than ever before, which has helped to increase honey production.
Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions:
When the sun’s rays fall on the earth, the earth absorbs 55% of the rays and reflects back 45% of the radiation. Allah Almighty has created this system and it is working well. On the other hand, some toxic gases, called greenhouse gases, accumulate in our atmosphere. These include carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons, carbon monoxide, etc. There are three major sources of these gases that cause them to be expelled into the air. These are (1) industries (2) air traffic (3) rail and other vehicle traffic.
The ozone layer creates a blockage that causes these gases to return to the earth, causing the temperature to rise, which the world is witnessing today. But since various measures have been taken due to the Coronavirus, there has been a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and the ozone layer can easily reduce the 45% of radiation that is reflected. As a result, a decrease in temperature has been recorded. When the temperature drops, it obviously reduces the heat that melts the glaciers and lowers the water level in the rivers, as well as raises the risk of flooding. A report has also been published on the emission of these greenhouse gases, which states that the emission of greenhouse gases has decreased by 30 to 35% in the last 4 months. And the cracks in the ozone layer have shrunk considerably. The European Union’s Earth Observatory (CAMS) was monitoring the ozone depletion on the Arctic last month, but the International Meteorological Organization (IMO) announced that it is closing. Despite this, the Coronavirus is still has a positive effect on the environment.
High availability of green labor:
An interesting fact is that during the Coronavirus, people have not been getting jobs because industries and other business activities have been suspended, so there has been a huge unemployment problem for people working on daily wages. The Forest Department in Pakistan, and especially in Malakand division, has hired these daily wage earners to plant trees. The Forest Department also hired a considerable amount of labor for plantation and with its help; a lot of plantation has taken place. The result is that more plantings have taken place during the Coronavirus lockdown, which has had a positive effect.
According to Hayat Ali, in general, all these positive effects on the environment in the world and in our country are due to the rules imposed to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. But these things have happened because the social life of human beings is being limited. People have not gone to political, social and religious gatherings as they did before because of the Coronavirus. People are responsible for all the harm to the environment that has been taking place. If they believe that these positive environmental changes have occurred only because of the virus outbreak, then they won’t understand that this change in human behavior should continue in normal circumstances. Because of this, man must pledge to protect his environment by limiting unnecessary activities. A clean environment is very important for the benefit of human beings and efforts must be made to sustain it all times.