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

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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.
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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

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.
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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.

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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

E-Commerce Players to Help Deliver Essentials in India

Delhi Police notified that e-commerce or online delivery services will be included in essential services. Those e-commerce operators who supply essentials like food, groceries, medicines and household necessities have been allowed in many parts of the country. They had halted their operations after PM Modi announced a 21-day lockdown to stem the spread of Coronavirus.
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Crux of the Matter

Owing to the lockdown, E-commerce operators had halted their services. Figuring out safe passage was becoming hard for them. Amazon’s pantry page had announced that it was unable to deliver because of the local restrictions and they were in talks with the government authorities to allow them to deliver the essentials.

Medlife CEO Ananth Narayanan said that one of the company’s delivery person was hit by cops in Delhi. Flipkart, Amazon, Big Basket, etc. had announced that their services would be suspended temporarily during the lockdown. However, the government later notified that delivery operators of essential goods like groceries, food, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, etc. will be allowed to operate.

We have been assured of the safe and smooth passage of our supply chain and delivery executives by local law enforcement authorities and are resuming our grocery and essentials services later today (Wednesday).

– Kalyan Krishnamurthy, Flipkart Group CEO

Industry experts also voiced their concerns over the proper classification of essentials across states. They also said that challenges in front of delivery operators are not less as the interstate movement of goods besides the local movement of delivery persons have been affected due to the lockdown.

In the National Capital Region and many parts of the country, online delivery operators like Flipkart, Amazon, Swiggy, Zomato, UrbanClap, Big Basket, Grofers, Reliance Fresh, Medlife, Pharmeasy, etc will be allowed to operate.

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E-Commerce in India – India has an internet user base of about 475 million as of July 2019, about 40% of the population. This number is expected to be 627 million by the end of 2019. Despite being the second-largest userbase in world, only behind China (650 million, 48% of population), the penetration of e-commerce is low compared to markets like the United States (266 million, 84%), or France (54 M, 81%), but is growing, adding around 6 million new entrants every month. The industry consensus is that growth is at an inflection point.

Foreign e-commerce is subject to regulations in India; under local law, foreign companies are to serve solely as marketplaces between vendors and their customers, and are forbidden from holding inventory in the country. Under new regulations effective 1 February 2019, foreign companies will be forbidden from selling any products from vendors that they control or have equity stakes in, and it is forbidden to enter into exclusivity deals between vendors and websites. This regulation is seen as a counter to Amazon and Walmart’s influence on the market, which have given smaller traders a disadvantage in the market. More Info

Largest Ration Subsidy During Corona Lockdown

While India has been put under lockdown for 21 days, the Central Government approved the food distribution subsidy scheme that will benefit 80 crore Indians, the largest ration subsidy scheme to date. FM Nirmala Sitharaman also announced a relief package of ₹1.7 lakh crores to help the underprivileged people of the country survive the Coronavirus pandemic.
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Crux of the Matter

Largest Ration Subsidy
Amid the ongoing health crisis and lockdown across the whole nation due to COVID-19, Union Cabinet Minister Prakash Javadekar addressed a press conference and informed that the government has decided to reduce the price of Wheat from ₹27/kg to ₹2/kg and Rice from ₹32/kg to ₹3/kg under the subsidy scheme for next three months.

It is estimated that around 80 crore beneficiaries will be benefited by introducing a subsidy in the Public Distribution System (PDS). Each person will get 7 kg of food grains per month. Every state has been notified to collect grains from the Center in advance to distribute among the public, the minister said.

States Join the Effort
Meanwhile, different states have also declared relief packages to meet the specific regional and necessary demands of the public. The Delhi government has made shelters with food facilities to accommodate homeless people. CM Arvind Kejriwal also said that the Delhi government is in the process of introducing a relief package to provide free-ration and double pension to 72 lakh people whose jobs are affected by COVID-19 lockdown.

Punjab‘s CM Amarinder Singh has approved ₹20 crore relief packages for free food distribution and medical facilities in the state. In Haryana, families below the poverty line will get free ration from the state government from April, said CM Mahnor Lal Khattar. Kerala government has promised to provide every citizen of the state, irrespective of their economic condition, with a full supply of ration. Further, the state is also under process to build up fast track restaurants which will provide a meal at ₹20. The government of Tamil Nadu said that it will provide ₹1000 to all ration cardholders along with free rice, sugar and other essential commodities.

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Public Distribution System (PDS) – The central and state governments share the responsibility of regulating the PDS. While the central government is responsible for procurement, storage, transportation, and bulk allocation of food grains, state governments hold the responsibility for distributing the same to the consumers through the established network of fair price shops (FPSs). State governments are also responsible for operational responsibilities including allocation and identification of families below the poverty line, issue of ration cards, and supervision and monitoring the functioning of FPSs.

Under the PDS scheme, each family below the poverty line is eligible for 35 kg of rice or wheat every month, while a household above the poverty line is entitled to 15 kg of foodgrain on a monthly basis. A below poverty line card holder should be given 35 kg of food grain and the card holder above the poverty line should be given 15 kg of food grain as per the norms of PDS. However, there are concerns about the efficiency of the distribution process. A public distribution shop, also known as fair price shop (FPS), is a part of India’s public system established by the Government of India which distributes rations at a subsidized price to the poor. Locally these are known as ration shops and public distribution shops, and chiefly sell wheat, rice and sugar at a price lower than the market price called Issue Price. Other essential commodities may also be sold. To buy items one must have a ration card. These shops are operated throughout the country by joint assistance of central and state government. The items from these shops are much cheaper but are of average quality. Ration shops are now present in most localities, villages towns and cities. India has more than 5.5 lakh (0.55 million) shops, constituting the largest distribution network in the world. More Info