M Junaid Jazib
Snow-clad Himalayan slopes are visible from the plains of Punjab. Blue skies are visible from the streets of Delhi. The noise of the traffic is suddenly replaced with a serene silence. Even the usual climatic adversaries seem to have softened their blows. Winds, humidity, temperature, rain, they all seem to be behaving friendly and in manners suited to each other. These unanticipated developments are not the result of some divine intervention, nor of human efforts to heal the planet. They are due to an invisible nanoparticle that has forced the world to cower under lockdown.
The decision to impose lockdown is proving to be a great success in containing the epidemic, but it is also serving an unintended purpose that is perhaps its greater blessing – the cleansing of the natural environment. Ecosystems everywhere, in urban, suburban or rural areas, have found an opportunity to breathe and rejuvenate. It reminds us that the environment is very quick in reviving and healing itself. It starts showing results in no time, such as in the colour of the water of rivers and in the smell of the air that we breathe.
Everything costs something. The present, almost global, lockdown is bound to have lasting and undoubtedly very serious social and economic impact. With no belittling of the current crisis, the fact of the matter is that environmental hazards that the world faces today are far more certain, severe and complex than a virus that a vaccine can kill and an effective quarantine can manage. From depletion of natural resources to global warming, from pollution to extinction of species, there is a plethora of environmental problems that are growing in severity every minute and are affecting the entire planet. And yet, regrettably, we do not realize their gravity. It is for the lack of this realization that we cannot reach a consensus on how to act appropriately to save the earth and those who live on it.
Ecological disruptions are by and large anthropogenic for which we humans are accountable. The measures taken during the lockdown such as maintaining hygiene, avoiding unnecessary gatherings, regulating aerial and land traffic, and fixing business hours for corporate sector are highly beneficial from an environmental point of view. Why shouldn’t we think of taking it upon ourselves to extend this lockdown forever, with only the necessary modifications made to make it practical?
The lockdown teaches us three important things: first, that environmental degradation has made us forget the feel of pure and natural ecosystems, which is why we are surprised to find our surroundings clean and safer; second, the natural ecosystem starts repairing itself in no time if given a chance; and third, that it’s not at all a big deal or unaffordable for us to adopt eco-friendly ways of life. If we do not learn these important lessons, the planet will undergo a shutdown that we will have no say in.
The writer is HoD, Environmental Science, Govt PG College Rajouri