COVID-19 Side effects: Can Earth’s Environment Recover and Hit a Reset Button?

environment

The flagship environmental channel, National Geographic and the reputed fact checker, Snopes recently debunked social media claims regarding improvement in the environment like increased dolphin and swan sightings in Italy. In the meantime, this has spiked up fresh debate between environmentalists and scientists worldwide: Can the human social isolation adopted to fight against the ongoing COVID-19, do any good to revive Nature? Or is it just a temporary distraction to the underlying problem at hand, i.e the pandemic itself?

Crux of the Matter

Small Step To Giant Leap in Carbon Footprint Reduction?
The transportation sector is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. As per reports released by researchers at Columbia University (CU), emission of carbon monoxide from cars and planet heating Carbon Dioxide (CO2), has reduced by nearly 50% as compared to 2019, improving the overall environment. With schools and businesses adopting strict work from home policy worldwide, there could be a further decrease in travel carbon footprint.

An analysis by China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment suggests that there has been a 35% drop in energy usage of fossil fuels like coal, over a two week period due to less industrial activities. The Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air estimates it to be equivalent to 200 million tons of CO2. In Europe, satellite images show nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions receding in northern Italy, Spain, and the UK.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center:
The Epicentre of COVID-19’s Pollution Footprint changed in just about a month!

On the flip side, the household carbon footprint has the potential to increase. It depends mainly on weather conditions, geography and different family lifestyles followed at home. According to Jacqueline Klopp, co-director of the Center for Sustainable Urban Development at CU, “People may spend more time watching television or using appliances if they’re cooped up in their houses, increasing household’s carbon footprint.”

India Takes Deep Breaths as Air Quality Improves
Over 90 cities in the nation have recorded minimum air pollution recently during the ongoing 21 days lockdown period aimed to control COVID-19. As per figures generated by the Government-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), there has been a noteworthy drop in PM2.5 (fine particulate pollutant) by 30 percent in Delhi. In Pune, Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) pollution has reduced by 43 percent, in Mumbai, by 38 percent, and in Ahmedabad, by 50 percent.

What Has Happened in the Past?
Julia Pongratz, professor at the University of Munich, Germany, discovered that epidemics left subtle prints on atmospheric CO2 levels, by measuring tiny bubbles trapped in ancient ice cores. The list included epidemics such as the Black Death in Europe in the 14th Century and smallpox in South America. Even in the case of a financial crash of 2008-09, there was an overall dip in emissions of 1.3%. Combined emissions from manufacturing, industrial processes and construction round up to 18.4% of global anthropogenic emissions.


Growth of global carbon emissions halved during 2008-2009 recession

Challenge Yet to be Addressed: Clean Energy Plans Paused
A global recession as a result of coronavirus shutdowns could stall the shift to clean energy. If capital markets lock up, it will become difficult for companies to secure financing for planned wind and electric grid projects, and it could bomb proposals already made or new projects. Low prices could further depress electric-vehicle sales and make people less inclined toward projects like retrofitting energy-saving homes and offices.

As a matter of fact, the world’s largest share of solar panels, wind turbines, and lithium-ion batteries are produced in China. The Dragon land is already relaxing environmental supervision of companies to stimulate its economy, which means that the aforementioned 25% cut in carbon emissions could evaporate, followed by even more emissions than before. Similarly, US has a $2 trillion stimulus bill passed earlier this week and is being popularised as the largest fiscal stimulus package in modern American history. It does include direct payments to individuals and extended unemployment benefits but not relief for renewables, such as crucial tax credit extensions for solar and wind energy.

Sneak Peek to a Zero-Carbon Economy?
The world can have a promising future of coexistence of both Human Beings, natural environment and other living species including birds and animals if there is both public and political will with international cooperation. Policymakers can further move forward with their climatic plans of action while keeping the global economy stable, as stated by the European Green Deal, a new policy package that commits European Union member states to zero emissions by 2050.

On the digital front, Tech giant IBM has already launched a Call for Code Global Challenge which addresses both climate change and COVID-19 and shall involve different coding communities round the globe. With the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow planned to be derailed till the pandemic cools down, online environmental activism is parallelly being carried out. Thus not with mere words, but by actual actions, we can look forward to a greener, more sustainable future.

India doing it’s own part in bringing together willing climate patriots

Complete coverage of the Global Coronavirus effect

Curiopedia

A carbon footprint is historically defined as the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent. Greenhouse gases, including the carbon-containing gases carbon dioxide and methane, can be emitted through the burning of fossil fuels, land clearance and the production and consumption of food, manufactured goods, materials, wood, roads, buildings, transportation and other services.

An individual’s, nation’s, or organization’s carbon footprint can be measured by undertaking a GHG emissions assessment, a life cycle assessment, or other calculative activities denoted as carbon accounting. More Info

2017 co2
Global emissions increased from 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in 1900 to over 36 billion tonnes 115 years later.

Air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year. WHO data shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants in the environment. From smog hanging over cities to smoke inside the home, air pollution poses a major threat to health and climate. The combined effects of ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution cause about seven million premature deaths every year.80% people are affected by its unfortunate consequences, in the form of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections. More Info

Vulnerability of Migrant Workers in the Face of Pandemic

Government of India has notified states to seal the interstate borders in the backdrop of exodus of thousands of migrant workers from National Capital Region (NCR) Delhi. The government has urged migrant workers to stay where they are and assured that food, shelter, and wages will be provided to them.
Complete Coverage: Coronavirus

Crux of the Matter

Exodus of Migrant Workers
Thousands of migrant workers of Uttar Pradesh (UP) working in Delhi, Punjab, and Haryana, had begun migrating back to their hometowns amid the Coronavirus lockdown. Workers who survive on daily wages and who have been housed in factories or construction sites were apprehensive about going hungry, penniless and having no shelter.

UP government in a statement said that the Delhi government disconnected the electricity and water connection of these people. It added that they were not even provided with food and milk. There were rumors that buses are waiting at the UP border to drop these migrants to their hometowns and DTC buses dropped people at the Delhi border, said the statement.

Thousands of workers gathered at Delhi’s Anand Vihar bus station were taken to UP border. Many migrants were seen walking from Delhi to UP border as well. UP government announced that it will run nearly 1,000 buses to bring back the migrant workers to their domicile state.

While this exodus massively dilutes the whole purpose of lockdown – to stem the spread of COVID-19 – the Indian government has ordered to seal all inter-state borders and put those who have already migrated in a 14-day quarantine. Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) also suspended some Delhi government officials over lapses in ensuring a lockdown. It also issued a 5-point guideline to cope with the issue:

  • Creation of temporary shelters for stranded migrants
  • Provision of food for them and the poor
  • 14-day quarantine for those who have migrated
  • Regular wages for daily wagers and migrant workers
  • Exemption for migrant workers to pay rent for a month

Kejriwal’s Belated Appeal
After the images of lakhs of migrant workers stranded at Delhi’s Anand Vihar bus terminal went viral, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal made a public appeal to all migrant communities to stay back and adhere to the lockdown protocols. He further mentioned that stranded population will be housed temporarily in Delhi’s schools.

India’s Situation
Delhi houses about India’s 1.3 million migrant workers as per the 2011 Census. India’s urban region has around 13.4 million interstate workers. A large exodus would put many lives at stake. Moreover, the Capital also saw the largest one day spike in the number of cases on Sunday, taking the toll to 72.

Migrants from various states began their journey back home after PM Modi announced the lockdown. Telangana, in order to battle the migration, announced that all the migrant workers will get Rs. 500 cash and 12 kg of rice. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) also announced that ‘Annapurna’ centres where a full meal is available at just Rs. 5 will remain open.

As of 30th March 2020, India has more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients and more than 25 deaths.

Curiopedia

Unorganised Sector of India – Over 94 percent of India’s working population is part of the unorganised sector. Unorganised sector, also known as own account enterprises, refers to all unlicensed, self-employed or unregistered economic activity such as owner manned general stores, handicrafts and handloom workers, rural traders, farmers, etc. The unorganised sector has low productivity and offers lower wages. Even though it accounted for over 94 percent of workers, India’s unorganised sector created just 57 percent of India’s national domestic product in 2006, or about 9 fold less per worker than the organised sector. The productivity gap sharply worsens when rural unorganised sector is compared to urban unorganised sector, with gross value added productivity gap spiking an additional 2 to 4 fold depending on occupation. Some of lowest income jobs are in the rural unorganised sectors. Poverty rates are reported to be significantly higher in families where all working age members have only worked the unorganised sector throughout their lives. More Info

East Asia Braces itself for Second Wave of Coronavirus

Coronavirus Second Wave

China and South East Asia are preparing for a second wave of the Coronavirus that may be caused from asymptomatic cases and the infected people who have come from abroad. With the number of cases rising rapidly in the US, Italy, and Spain, nations worldwide are aggressively enforcing lockdowns as the world awaits a cure.
Complete Coverage: Coronavirus

Crux of the Matter

Is the Second Wave of Virus Looming Over?
As reported by South China Morning Post, China, in its 80,000 patient tally, did not include 40,000 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 but showed mild or no symptoms. As the number of positive cases coming from abroad seems to be growing in China – in the last week China has reported 313 imported cases, they pose a great threat of a second wave of Coronavirus in the nation. Travel restrictions and other lockdown restrictions were lifted in China which will lead to more human movement, leading to more chances of asymptomatic people or “silent carriers” infecting others.

Japan also saw a surge in the number of cases recently. With Singapore, Thailand, Pakistan, India and other South Asian nations seeing a rise in the number of cases, experts have debunked the World Health Organisations’ previous claim that pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic transmission was ‘relatively rare’. Studies from Japan, South Korea, Italy, and the USA substantiate that silent spreaders are the latest threat to the community. In view of the threat of second wave, China has ordered all cinemas and other important places to shut down again.

Approximately half of all residents with positive test results did not have any symptoms at the time of testing, suggesting that transmission from asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic residents—who were not recognized as having [the coronavirus] infection and therefore not isolated—might have contributed to further spread.

– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

New Hotspots
Italy was the first hotspot of Coronavirus outside of Mainland China. A few days back, it reported the highest one-day death toll from that virus, 919. The number of cases in Italy is nearing 100,000 with a fatality rate of nearly 10%. The US, on the other hand, is nearing 150,000 cases. However, it only has around 2,500 fatalities. There is a growing number of cases in Spain as well followed by Germany France, Iran, and the UK. The global toll of infections has crossed 700,000-mark with a death toll of around 34,000.

Curiopedia

Coronavirus is the common name for Coronaviridae and Orthocoronavirinae, also called Coronavirinae. Coronaviruses cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, the viruses cause respiratory infections, including the common cold, which are typically mild, though rarer forms such as SARS, MERS and COVID-19 can be lethal. Symptoms vary in other species: in chickens, they cause an upper respiratory disease, while in cows and pigs coronaviruses cause diarrhea. There are no vaccines or antiviral drugs to prevent or treat human coronavirus infections. They are enveloped viruses with a positive-sense single-stranded RNA genome and a nucleocapsid of helical symmetry. The genome size of coronaviruses ranges from approximately 26 to 32 kilobases, the largest for an RNA virus. The name “coronavirus” is derived from the Ancient Greek word ‘korone’, meaning crown or halo, which refers to the characteristic appearance of the virus particles (virions): they have a fringe reminiscent of a crown or of a solar corona. More Info

India Inc Comes Together to Contribute to Corona Fight

On Saturday, PM Modi announced PM-CARES fund to support the people who are directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19. From India’s mammoth Industrial houses to Armed Force Personnel to Bollywood actors, many citizens have contributed to the fund.
Complete Coverage: Coronavirus

Crux of the Matter

We Care
Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) is a public charitable trust set up by the Union Government of India. The collected amount will be used to facilitate the smooth running of the life of needy people stuck far away from their homes and of the daily wagers. It will be used to boost the medical-infrastructure and to fulfill medical demands in this time of health crisis.

Industrialist Ratan Tata has donated ₹500 crores, biggest till now. His group Tata Sons has committed ₹1,500 crores towards fighting COVID-19. The Adani group and JWS Group have donated ₹100 crores each. Reliance Industries have pledged to provide free fuel for the emergency vehicles occupied in the treatment of Coronavirus patients. Besides donating ₹5 crore to Maharasthra CM Relief Fund, Ambani’s RIL has decided to produce 1 lakhs masks every day and to distribute free meals among the affected poor people.

Bollywood star Akshay Kumar has donated ₹25 crores to the PM-CARES fund. Baahubali star Prabhas has donated ₹4 crores to fight against Covid- 19. Many other Bollywood stars have come forward to help people by donating funds. India’s wealthiest sporting body, BCCI vowed to contribute the share of ₹50 crores in the PM-CARES fund. Suresh Raina and Sachin Tendulkar have donated ₹52 lakhs and ₹50 lakhs respectively.

India is also facing a scarcity of ventilators required during the treatment of Coronavirus infected people. To fill the gap, the Mahindra Group has declared that the company has started the process to figure out how their industrial plants will produce the ventilator.

Curiopedia

How to Donate to PM-CARES Fund?
You can do your share by donating to the PM CARES fund by following these simple steps:
1) Go to the website pmindia.gov.in if you want to make an online payment or want bank details. Here are the bank details if you want to pay via cheque or any other electronic means.
Name of the Account: PM CARES
Account Number: 2121PM20202
IFSC Code: SBIN0000691
SWIFT Code: SBININBB104
Name of Bank & Branch: State Bank of India, New Delhi Main Branch
UPI ID: pmcares@sbi

(Note that there are frauds being carried out using UPI ID “pmcare@sbi”. The correct UPI ID is mentioned above.)

2) Pay on the website through the following modes:
i) Debit Cards and Credit Cards
ii) Internet Banking
iii) UPI (BHIM, PhonePe, Amazon Pay, Google Pay, PayTM, Mobikwik, etc.)
iv) RTGS/NEFT

FM and RBI Stand Together to Support the People during Corona Lockdown

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced a ₹1.7 lakh crore relief package to help the daily wagers and poor during the 21-day lockdown due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, RBI has also followed suit and decided to slash interest rates by 75 basis points or 0.75%.
Complete Coverage: Coronavirus

Crux of the Matter

Shielding the Real Economy
FM announced that the relief package, ‘Gareeb Kalyan Yojna’, will include a mix of direct cash transfer benefits and food supplies. Food security under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Ann Yojna (PMGKY) is likely to benefit 80 crore people. Under this scheme, every household will get an additional 5 kg of Wheat or Rice and 1 kg of Pulses for three months. She also announced an insurance cover of ₹50 lakh for every healthcare worker for the coming three months. Following benefits will be given under the Direct Benefit Transfer:

  • ₹2,000 will be transferred to 8.69 crore farmers in the first week of April.
  • MNREGA workers will get a hike of ₹2,000 on their wages.
  • ₹1,000 will be transferred in two installments to 3 crore senior citizens, widows, and people with disabilities.
  • 20 crore women account holders in Jan Dhan will receive ₹500 per month for the coming three months.
  • Under the Ujjawala scheme, BPL families will get free cylinders for the coming three months.

RBI Follows Suit
To cope with the slowing demand, like Central banks across the globe, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has also reduced the interest rate. It slashed the repo rate by 75 basis points or 0.75% (1 basis point = 0.01%) and brought it down to 4.4%. Repo rate is the rate at which RBI lends money to commercial banks and is generally linked closely to the interest rates that commercial banks charge on loans. The US had cut its interest rate twice and brought it down to near 0 to combat the dipping demand due to Coronavirus.

RBI also announced that it is permitting all banks and NBFCs to allow a moratorium of three months on term loans. This means banks can allow you to put your EMI on term loans on hold for the coming three months without affecting your credit history.

Curiopedia

Repo rate is the rate at which RBI lends to its clients generally against government securities. Reduction in repo rate helps the commercial banks to get money at a cheaper rate. Increase in repo rate discourages the commercial banks to get money as it becomes expensive. Reverse repo rate is the rate at which RBI borrows money from commercial banks.

Increase in the repo rate increases the cost of borrowing and lending of banks which discourages the public from borrowing money and encourages them to deposit. As the rates increase, the availability of credit and demand decreases.
More Info