Halting Destruction Of Biodiversity Could Slow The Frequency Of Deadly Pandemics, Say Experts

Halting Destruction Of Biodiversity Could Slow The Frequency Of Deadly Pandemics, Say Experts

In a report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the cost of making transformative changes required to prevent future pandemics would be cheaper than financial damage caused by COVID-19 pandemic alone
Coronavirus Outbreak, Environment, News
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Halting Destruction Of Biodiversity Could Slow The Frequency Of Deadly Pandemics, Say ExpertsAccording to experts, the same human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss also drive pandemic risks through an impact on our environment
Highlights
  • Protecting nature is vital to escaper the era of a pandemic: Experts
  • Over 5 new disease is emerging in people every year, says IPBES report
  • When it comes to pandemics, the focus should be on prevention: Experts

New Delhi: Pandemics represent an existential threat to the health and welfare of people across the planet. According to a report released on Thursday (October 29) by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), an independent intergovernmental body based in Germany that focuses on biodiversity conservation, based on around 700 scientific studies, has highlighted the link between degrading of nature and increasing pandemic risks. It has revealed that the world is in an ‘era of pandemics’ and future pandemics ill emerge more often, spread more rapidly and do more damage to the world than the ongoing of COVID-19 pandemic. The experts involved in the compilation of the report stress on the need for a transformative change in the global approach to dealing with infectious diseases.

Also Read: Environment Crisis: 7 Endangered Species On Verge Of Extinction Due To Human Activity And How It Impacts Us

The report has stated that the loss of habitat and the disturbances in the biodiversity caused by climate change, the expansion of agricultural land, deforestation and the wildlife trade are linked to disease emergence. It has reiterated that these unsustainable activities can all expose humans to new viruses that neither the human bodies nor the healthcare systems around the world are equipped to handle. The report says,

The risk of pandemics is increasing rapidly, with more than five new diseases emerging in people every year, any one of which has the potential to become pandemic.

While presenting the findings of the report, Dr Peter Daszak, President of EcoHealth Alliance said in a workshop conducted by IPBES on the report,

There is no great mystery about the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic – or of any modern pandemic. The same human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss also drive pandemic risk through their impacts on our environment. Changes in the way we use the land; the expansion and intensification of agriculture; and unsustainable trade, production and consumption disrupt nature and increase contact between wildlife, livestock, pathogens and people. This is the path to pandemics.

COVID-19 which has infected over 4.49 crore people and killed 11.8 lakh people is the sixth global health pandemic since the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, and although it has its origins in microbes carried by animals, like all pandemics its emergence has been entirely driven by human activities, says the report. It is estimated that another 1.7 million currently ‘undiscovered’ viruses exist in mammals and birds – of which up to 850,000 could have the ability to infect people.

Also Read: COVID-19 Lockdowns Led To Unprecedented Decline In Global Emissions: Study

Escaping Future Pandemics Require A Shift In Approach From Reaction To Prevention: Experts

In the report, the experts said that instead of relying on the responses to diseases like public health measures or technological solutions after an outbreak has occurred, there is a need of adopting an approach to prevent the pandemics altogether. The experts estimate that the cost of reducing the risks to prevent pandemics is about 100 times less than the cost of responding to such pandemics. Dr Daszak said that an ounce of prevention is worth 100 pounds of cure. He said,

You put a dollar into prevention, you get $100 return in the future. Why aren’t we doing this on a global scale? We have the increasing ability to prevent pandemics – but the way we are tackling them right now largely ignores that ability. Our approach has effectively stagnated – we still rely on attempts to contain and control diseases after they emerge, through vaccines and therapeutics. We can escape the era of pandemics, but this requires a much greater focus on prevention in addition to reaction. The fact that human activity has been able to so fundamentally change our natural environment need not always be a negative outcome. It also provides convincing proof of our power to drive the change needed to reduce the risk of future pandemics – while simultaneously benefiting conservation and reducing climate change.

The experts stressed that pandemic risk can be significantly lowered by reducing the human activities that drive the loss of biodiversity, by greater conservation of protected areas, and through measures that unsustainable exploitation of high biodiversity regions. This will also reduce the wildlife-livestock-human contact and help prevent the spillover of new diseases called ‘zoonotic diseases’ which jump from animals to humans, said Dr Daszak.

The report has laid out a number of strategies for addressing the pandemic risk. Anna Larigauderie, Executive Secretary of IPBES highlighted the importance of scientific approach while decision making when it comes to policies affecting environment conservation or health. She said,

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of science and expertise to in the policy and decision making. This IPBES report which a peer-reviewed expert publication, representing the perspectives of some of the leading scientists of the world, would offer new insights to the decision-makers about pandemic reduction and options for prevention.

Also Read: How Can We Sustain The Environmental Gains Made During COVID-19 Induced Lockdown? Experts Answer At #SwasthyaMantra Telethon

Some of the way in which policy intervention can help in bringing in a transformative change and preventing future pandemics, as recommended by experts in the report are:

  •  Launching a high-level intergovernmental council on pandemic prevention to provide decision-makers with the best science and evidence on emerging diseases; predict high-risk areas; evaluate the economic impact of potential pandemics and to highlight research gaps. Such a council could also coordinate the design of a global monitoring framework.
  • Countries setting mutually-agreed goals or targets within the framework of an international accord or agreement – with clear benefits for people, animals and the environment.
  • Institutionalizing the ‘One Health’ approach in national governments to build pandemic preparedness, enhance pandemic prevention programs, and to investigate and control outbreaks across sectors.
  • Developing and incorporating pandemic and emerging disease risk health impact assessments in major development and land-use projects, while reforming financial aid for land-use so that benefits and risks to biodiversity and health are recognized and explicitly targeted.
  • Ensuring that the economic cost of pandemics is factored into consumption, production, and government policies and budgets.
  • Enabling changes to reduce the types of consumption, globalized agricultural expansion and trade that have led to pandemics – this could include taxes or levies on meat consumption, livestock production and other forms of high pandemic-risk activities.
  • Reducing zoonotic disease risks in the international wildlife trade through a new intergovernmental ‘health and trade’ partnership; reducing or removing high disease-risk species in the wildlife trade; enhancing law enforcement in all aspects of the illegal wildlife trade and improving community education in disease hotspots about the health risks of wildlife trade.
  • Valuing Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ engagement and knowledge in pandemic prevention programs, achieving greater food security, and reducing consumption of wildlife.
  • Closing critical knowledge gaps such as those about key risk behaviours, the relative importance of illegal, unregulated, and the legal and regulated wildlife trade in disease risk, and improving understanding of the relationship between ecosystem degradation and restoration, landscape structure and the risk of disease emergence.

Also Read: How Does Climate Change Affect The Food Chain?

John H.Amuasi, Executive Director of the African Research Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (ARNTD) said during a discussion on the report findings that the ongoing pandemic should be considered as an opportunity to press the reset button in order to change the destructive path that the world is on. He also talked about providing food security to the people by focussing on the indigenous and more sustainable ways of food production. He highlighted the importance of self-sustenance in food production and said that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how the importation of food items is not reliable.

Dr Carlos Zambrana, Senior Research Scientist of EcoHealth Alliance, another expert involved in the report stressed on the importance of the indigenous communities in understanding the nature and in preventing pandemics. He said that the tribal communities have a longer and deeper relationship with the environment and know much more about nature than others. He said that the indigenous communities have the knowledge about how to interact with the wildlife and how to mitigate the effects of an outbreak.

The experts, via the report, have tried to shed light on the linkages among consumption, livestock farming, health, habitat destruction, climate change and emerging diseases. They have called for immediate actions that are required to be taken for reducing consumption and providing resources to tackle the negative consequences of human actions.

Also Read: Expert View: Five Reasons Why You Should Care About Biodiversity Loss

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

World

17,59,54,708Cases
5,81,66,715Active
11,39,84,189Recovered
38,03,804Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 193 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 17,59,54,708 and 38,03,804 have died; 5,81,66,715 are active cases and 11,39,84,189 have recovered as on June 14, 2021 at 3:36 am.

India

2,95,10,410 70,421Cases
9,73,15853,001Active
2,81,62,947 1,19,501Recovered
3,74,305 3,921Deaths
In India, there are 2,95,10,410 confirmed cases including 3,74,305 deaths. The number of active cases is 9,73,158 and 2,81,62,947 have recovered as on June 14, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

59,08,992 10,442

1,58,617 167

56,39,271 7,504

1,11,104 2,771

Karnataka

27,65,134 7,810

1,80,856 10,961

25,51,365 18,646

32,913 125

Kerala

27,28,239 11,584

1,23,433 6,478

25,93,625 17,856

11,181 206

Tamil Nadu

23,53,721 14,016

1,49,927 12,146

21,74,247 25,895

29,547 267

Andhra Pradesh

18,09,844 6,770

85,637 5,780

17,12,267 12,492

11,940 58

Uttar Pradesh

17,02,624 452

8,986 820

16,71,852 1,221

21,786 51

West Bengal

14,61,257 3,984

17,651 1,403

14,26,710 2,497

16,896 84

Delhi

14,31,139 255

3,466 144

14,02,850 376

24,823 23

Chhattisgarh

9,86,963 459

13,677 1,405

9,59,969 1,858

13,317 6

Rajasthan

9,49,684 308

7,441 959

9,33,421 1,260

8,822 7

Odisha

8,51,782 4,469

51,681 3,309

7,96,799 7,733

3,302 45

Gujarat

8,20,321 455

10,249 614

8,00,075 1,063

9,997 6

Madhya Pradesh

7,88,183 274

4,251 524

7,75,380 780

8,552 18

Haryana

7,65,861 339

4,661 525

7,52,208 821

8,992 43

Bihar

7,17,215 487

5,312 389

7,02,411 868

9,492 8

Telangana

6,03,369 1,280

21,137 996

5,78,748 2,261

3,484 15

Punjab

5,87,903 956

12,981 1,083

5,59,360 1,980

15,562 59

Assam

4,59,497 2,167

41,373 3,272

4,14,173 5,403

3,951 36

Jharkhand

3,43,458 154

3,395 571

3,34,979 723

5,084 2

Uttarakhand

3,36,879 263

4,633 388

3,25,311 644

6,935 7

Jammu And Kashmir

3,07,412 774

15,081 1,203

2,88,145 1,965

4,186 12

Himachal Pradesh

1,98,550 237

4,777 625

1,90,382 855

3,391 7

Goa

1,62,468 420

4,882 175

1,54,658 581

2,928 14

Puducherry

1,12,528 402

5,331 414

1,05,513 809

1,684 7

Chandigarh

61,110 54

520 20

59,798 71

792 3

Manipur

59,852 530

8,499 211

50,379 726

974 15

Tripura

59,321 235

5,170 382

53,531 610

620 7

Meghalaya

41,906 305

4,623 248

36,550 547

733 6

Arunachal Pradesh

31,282 134

2,885 302

28,252 434

145 2

Nagaland

23,644 82

3,502 131

19,689 208

453 5

Ladakh

19,561 17

658 88

18,706 105

197

Sikkim

18,414 157

3,553 230

14,580 387

281

Mizoram

15,364 97

3,549 111

11,748 203

67 5

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,463 1

78 17

10,381 18

4

Lakshadweep

9,209 34

576 39

8,589 72

44 1

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,261 18

110 11

7,025 29

126

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