Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Environment: PPT | PDF Report

Coronavirus Pandemic and Environment

The global lockdown caused by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has resulted in numerous impacts on the environment and the climate. Though there have been many national and even international curfews in the past, perhaps most prominently during the WW2, there are no examples of lockdowns on a global scale deployed to counter a pandemic.
environmental impact of coronavirus covid19 ppt
Since there has been a significant reduction in economic activity and with entire populations ordered to stay home, schools, offices, and factories limited their activities, the road traffic dwindled to a minimum. As a result, many regions and the planet as a whole experienced a drop in air pollution as well as reduced pressure on nature. Let's highlight some of the major impacts the global environment has seen in the last few months.

Decrease in Travel

  • With entire populations ordered to stay home, schools, offices, and factories limited their activities, road traffic decreased to a minimum.
  • According to the IEA (International Energy Agency), the global average road transport activity fell to 50% of the 2019 level by the end of March 2020.
  • Almost every country has seen a huge drop in road use. This has resulted in a massive fall in the use of oil.
  • Globally, the demand for jet fuel was down by 65% in April as the airlines reduced scheduled flights by 60% to 95%.

Less Industrial Activities

  • Key segments of manufacturing had started shutting down in response to the lockdown orders issued by the respective governments.
  • In a few months, the demand for energy globally has fallen drastically.
  • The IEA says that the world will use 6% less energy in 2020 - equivalent to losing the entire energy demand of India.
  • The oil industry has ground to a halt as demand has slumped.
  • The coal use fell by 40% in China’s six largest power plants since the last quarter of 2019.

Impact of Coronavirus Pandemic on Air Quality

  • Due to the coronavirus outbreak's impact on travel and industry, many regions and the planet as a whole experienced a drop in air pollution.
  • Air quality levels in the world’s major cities improved dramatically in March and April. 
  • Air quality improved largely because of a reduction in factory and road traffic emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and related ozone (O3) formation, and particulate matter (PM).
  • According to NASA and ESA report, the economic slowdown from the virus drastically dropped pollution levels, especially in cities like Wuhan, China by 25-40%.
  • Coal-fired power generation was down 15% in March and 31% in the first three weeks of April, according to daily data from the Indian national grid.
  • Oil consumption was down 18% year-on-year in March 2020.
  • According to an analysis by the environmental website, Carbon Brief. study finds that Indian carbon dioxide emissions fell 15% in March, and are likely to have fallen by 30% in April.

Impact of Coronavirus Pandemic on Water Quality

  • For decades, the hydrosphere has been severely polluted because of rapid urbanization, industrialization, and overexploitation. 
  • During the lockdown period, the major industrial sources of pollution that affect aquatic ecosystems, such as industrial wastewater disposal, crude oil, heavy metals, and plastics have shrunk or completely stopped.
  • This resulted in improved water quality with the increase in dissolved oxygen (DO) and reduced nitrate concentration. 
  • Therefore, the level of pollution has been reduced to some extent in large water bodies. 
  • The Ganges is one of India's holiest and also most-polluted river has seen a significant improvement in water quality during the coronavirus lockdown.
  • Professor at Chemical Engineering and Technology at IIT-BHU, Varanasi, said there has been a 40-50 percent improvement in the quality of water.
  • The remote sensing images show the suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the Vembanad Lake, the longest, and one of the severely polluted freshwater lakes in India decreased by 15.9% on average during the lockdown period. 
  • Venice's normally murky canals have cleared due to fewer tourists, motorboats, and pollution allowing aquatic life to be visible from the surface.

Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Wildlife and Habitats

  • Nature and wildlife have replenished itself during Lockdown. 
  • According to the Bombay Natural History Society, there has been a 25% increase in flamingo migration since 2019.
  • German scientist Rainer Froese has said the fish biomass will increase due to the sharp decline in fishing.
  • In the United States, fatal vehicle collisions with animals such as deer, elk, moose, bears, mountain lions fell by 58% during March and April.
  • As countries around the world have put into place national lockdowns, some animals have been spotted in cities in the areas which usually have a human presence.
  • Viral social media posts showing wildlife returning to urban areas? Sadly Some of these reports proved to be true while many of these have turned out to be fake.
  • Hidden from view, marine animals may also start roaming more freely across the world’s oceans, following reductions in vessel traffic and noise-pollution levels

Reduction in environmental noise level

  • Environmental noise is defined as an unwanted sound that could be generated by 
    • industrial or commercial activities
    • the transit of engine vehicles
  • melodies at high volume
  • The imposition of Lockdown measures by most governments has caused the noise level to drop considerably in most cities in the world.
  • Reduced noise levels are associated with higher reproductive success, less migration, and ultimately lower mortality rates.
  • Seismologists are reporting less seismic noise or vibrations in the Earth’s crust. 
  • e.g. Seismic noise caused by human activity in Brussels, Belgium, is reported to be down by 1/3 compared to pre-lockdown levels. 
  • Tools to detect earthquakes and other seismic activity can be more precise.
  • With large ships temporarily on hold, there is a decrease in ocean noise which will help to increase the reproductive success of marine lives.

Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Energy Demands

  • According to IEA Global Energy Review 2020 analysis:
    • countries in full lockdown are experiencing an average 25% decline in energy demand per week
    • countries in partial lockdown an average 18% decline
  • Global energy demand declined by 3.8% in the first quarter of 2020
  • Global coal demand had fallen by almost 8% compared with the first quarter of 2019.
  • Oil demand was also hit strongly, down nearly 5% in the first quarter.
  • Renewables were the only source that posted growth in demand.
  • Electricity demand has been depressed by 20% or more during periods of full lockdown in several countries
  • The report projects that energy demand will fall 6% in 2020 – seven times the decline after the 2008 global financial crisis
  • India’s electricity consumption has fallen by 18.72% (till April 3, 2020) due to the lockdown
  • In India, a 26% decrease in coal-based power generation is one of the major reason for the reduction in pollution
  • Lockdown measures are driving a major shift towards low-carbon sources of electricity including wind, solar PV, hydropower, and nuclear.

The negative impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on Environment

  • Not all the environmental consequences of the crisis have been positive.
  •  Volumes of unrecyclable waste have risen
  • Severe cuts in agricultural and fishery export levels have led to the generation of large quantities of organic waste
  • Maintenance and monitoring of natural ecosystems have been temporarily halted
  •  Absence of environmental protection workers has resulted in a rise of illegal deforestation, fishing and wildlife hunting
  • The stoppage of ecotourism activity has also left natural ecosystems at risk of illegal harvesting and encroachment
  • Local waste problems have emerged as many municipalities have suspended their recycling activities over fears of virus spread

Increase in Waste Generation

  • Organic waste generated by households has increased due to a surge in demand for online shopping and home delivery.
  • Food purchased online is shipped packed, so inorganic waste has also increased
  • Plastic packaging has increased in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • In the US, reusable bags have been banned in many states
  • The increase in single-use plastics will have long-term impacts on the environment.
  • There has been an increase in Medical waste from discarded PPE kits, worn masks and gloves, and empty hand sanitizer bottles.
  • While contributing to other problems–clogging drainage systems, litter, and releasing pollutants when burned.
  • Levels of methane (CH4) emissions, a greenhouse gas, from decaying products are expected to rise sharply in the crisis and immediate post-crisis months.

Issues and Challenges

  • Decreasing Green House Gas concentrations during a short period is not a sustainable way to clean up our environment.
  • For a significant decline, there should be a long-term structural change in the countries' economies.
  • The economies have become very weak and therefore supporting the fight against climate change is going to be very difficult.
  • Severe cuts in agricultural and fishery export levels have led to the generation of large quantities of organic waste.
  • Medical waste can easily be mixed with domestic waste, they should be treated as hazardous waste and disposed of separately. 

Need for action

  • Attention must be given to threats on the environment and natural resource bases as a result of the coronavirus pandemic
  • Need for environmental action when economies re-open
  • Now is the time to realize the importance of sustainable development
  • The repeated outbreak of pandemics like SARS, MERS, Ebola is a result of climate change, desertification, loss of biodiversity, and illegal trading of wildlife. 
  • In order to successfully avert such a crisis in the future, we have to respect nature and biodiversity.
  • Governments should also make developmental policies keeping in mind the environmental challenges.
  • The coronavirus crisis also presents the world with an opportunity to invest in clean energy and ensure a cleaner future.

Conclusion

The reduced pollution levels and replenished wildlife is a silver-lining amidst COVID-19 crisis. It is an eyeopener for mankind but this has come at a major humanitarian cost, taking a toll on both human life and economy.  A long-term vision with a targeted stimulus towards sustainable goals is the need of the hour. Many of the environmental challenges caused by the coronavirus crisis will gradually resolve on their own once the crisis comes to an end and previous levels of economic activity resume. 

Download Environmental Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic PPT (33 MB)
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