COVID19: Improved Environment Nudges for a New Beginning

Ever since the lockdown that started from March 24 in India in response to global pandemic, people are witnessing a curios phenomenon. Mother Nature is reclaiming her space gently, silently and effortlessly. News items from world over in general and India in particular are replete with stories of people witnessing peacocks on their terraces or deer herd strolling on the streets or dolphins seen around the harbours that were so polluted just few weeks ago that they couldn’t support marine life.
Residents of the city of Jalandhar in Punjab got up to a startling morning view of Dhauladhar Ranges in Himalayas a total of 213 kilometres away from the town.
Older residents told people that the last they saw snow capped mountains was almost a generation ago. Pollution from industrial units in the city and hectic agricultural activities in the nearby fields almost erased the memories of the hill-view that was always available but got obscured by the pollution.
Stories like these can be heard from all the towns where many children below the age of 15 are listening to the chirping of birds for the first time in their life.
The question that begs an answer is will we be able to retain this pleasant interlude in our otherwise heavily polluted existence once the lockdown is lifted? The short answer alas is a big and resounding no.
But a more qualified answer would be, if we continue with business as usual then the mountains will again retreat behind a pall of smoke and the birds will be replaced by honking cars. But if we learn our lessons well and look for alternative ways of doing business and employ emerging new green technologies that are presented by the 17 sustainable development goals we can retain both the environmental integrity and a comfortable life for ourselves.
Initially it will take time to shift from our old polluting ways but a determined and time-bound effort will do the trick.
If the industries shift from polluting fuel to cleaner fuels like CNG or PNG and renewable energy like biomass and solar it will bring down the carbon emission by a huge margin. Coupled with this effort if the city completely overhauls its usage of electricity bulbs and shifts en mass to LED, both inside the houses as well as in the street light, and the waste management is done at the individual residential level then what reaches to the landfill will come down to almost zero. A lot of garbage will end up as manure and raw material that can be recycled in specific industrial like iron and steel, plastic, glass, paper and others. It will save the environment from methane and particulate emission to a great degree.
Outside the cities, agricultural field would have to adopt zero waste farming techniques and move away from over dependence on wheat and rice. It’s not that rice and wheat would be done away with, but their acreage can be increased on decreased depending upon the buffer stock available with the government. This kind of dynamic crop rotation will help in soil regeneration and restoration. Availability of technologies like mobile and internet can help government create a nimble system of early warning to help farmers make right choices of crops and also the time of sowing it.
This will help mitigate, to a large extent, burning of crop stubble. Use of water resistant crops for a couple of years will also help in restoring the water table and the general moisture in the fields. This too will go a long way in reducing dry spells and the amount of dust thrown up into the atmosphere.
Promoting greenery within the city and protecting biodiversity around it will create a natural pollutant soaking lungs that will keep the air clean.
Most importantly we will have to figure out a way to address our mobility to commute within the city. Cars arrived on the scene just a hundred years ago and as the city traffic stands today it seems they have run their course. Persisting with them is understandable in cases where old and infirm are involved, otherwise we need to step away from the gas pedal and pedal the bicycles and use the public transport. Try walking and don’t complain about heat or cold, our grand parents were walking just half a century ago and they didn’t die. Actually they were far fitter than any of us without paying heavy gym fees.
By employing these and many more small adjustments we humans will be able to maintain our comfortable lifestyles while also giving enough reprieve to environment to recoup itself.
As the present lockdown has shown you don’t need to do anything. Nature restores itself most of the time. All it needs is the human to take himself out of the equation for some time.
Lockdown has given us a glimpse of what a beautiful life we can live in harmony with nature. All we need to do is to soak in the experience and build upon it to make a conscious beginning where our children can have best of the both the worlds – material comfort in the lap of magnificent nature.

About indiadynamic

mediaperson worked for TWI, TVI, Dainik Bhaskar, UTV and Hindustan Times in all the divisions print, TV, radio and internet
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