How Can We Sustain The Environmental Gains Made During COVID-19 Induced Lockdown Experts Answer At #SwasthyaMantra TelethonHumans need to co-exist with the environment, said experts at the #SwasthyaMantra telethon
Highlights
  • Environmental gains made during COVID-19 lockdown are temporary: Experts
  • Lockdown cannot be the solution for clean air and water: Vimlendu Jha
  • The biggest tool against climate change is education: Bhumi Pednekar

New Delhi: In April, for the first time in decades, the residents of Jalandhar in Punjab got to see Himachal Pradesh’s Dhauladhar mountain ranges that are 213 km from the city. The dramatic drop in air pollution levels due to the lockdown is said to be the main reason behind the spectacle. In May, Olive Ridley turtles, the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles, made their way to the sea from Odisha’s coast. From clean air, clear blue sky, improved water quality to animals freely moving across the city, the Earth healed itself during the Coronavirus induced lockdown.

Unfortunately, it took the Coronavirus pandemic to put forward the fact that it is possible to have a clean and healthy planet. But as experts say, what we should not forget is that all of this came at the cost of a lockdown and these are temporary gains. At NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India’s 12-hour #SwasthyaMantra telethon on October 2, experts discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the environment and how we can sustain the environmental gains.

Also Read: #SwasthyaMantra Telethon: Experts Discuss The Relationship Between Health And Environment

Talking about the steps required to turn the temporary gains into permanent, Vimlendu Jha, Environmentalist and Founder of Swechha, Delhi based NGO, said,

Lockdown is not a solution and it’s not something that we can afford to do every month. The solution is to slow down, rethink and rewind. The two steps are required; firstly, we need to look at our actions and how it impacts the environment negatively. Secondly, the government needs to think that what we call development is actually a catastrophe to our planet. Constructing and broadening roads are important but if you have to axe trees for those roads which lead to people developing asthma and visiting hospital then what’s the point of those roads?

Mr Jha believes that COVID-19 has taught us two things – simple life is possible; to prioritise things. He said, we can lead a life where we have clean air, water, birds chirping around and nesting in our balconies but for that we need to pause and rethink our actions and their impact. Mr Jha added,

Development can’t be at the cost of human health and human environment. 15 lakh people die every year because of air pollution. Every second child has Asthma. We need to relook, rethink, rewind, and revisit some of our habits as an individual, as a society and as government.

Also Read: #SwasthyaMantra Telethon: Discussing The Three Pillars Of The Campaign – Health, Hygiene And Sanitation And Environment

Actor and climate warrior Bhumi Pednekar also joined the #SwasthyaMantra telethon and resonated with Mr Jha. Bhumi who herself is trying to lead a more sustainable lifestyle and bring a change at an individualistic level said,

The biggest tool to fight climate change and have a healthier environment is going to be education and literacy. It is important for our future generations to come. They have an equal right to live in a world that is prosperous, abundant and habitual. The fact, that there will be a point in future where humanity will not have access to basic things like clean air or water or basic nutrition scares me.

Bhumi stressed on the basic yet pivotal learning of the COVID-19 pandemic that is to co-exist with nature. Bhumi is of the opinion that we, the privileged and educated lot have been unfair to nature and still don’t understand the need to co-exist. She said,

Climate change cannot be reversed. We have already done the damage. But we can slow it down.

Also Read: Actor Bhumi Pednekar Engages With School Students To Raise Awareness On Climate Conservation

Talking about protecting the environment by solving the problem of waste, Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, stressed on the concept of ‘waste to wealth’. Mr Gadkari emphasised adding value to the waste in order to attract people towards waste management and in turn solve the problem of poor waste management and protect the environment. Sharing an example of the same, Mr Gadkari talked about Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s plan to provide a decomposer or a capsule produced by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Pusa that will convert stubble into manure which can be used in the fields. Mr Gadkari said,

Delhi Chief Minister has decided to distribute culture free of cost which increases organic carbon. This way, farmers will be benefitted, productivity will be increased, organic farming will be promoted, it will be good for health, and the problem of stubble burning will also be resolved. Farmers will themselves adopt this.

Also Read: #SwasthyaMantra Telethon: Union Minister Nitin Gadkari Promotes The Idea Of ‘Waste To Wealth’, For Development And Environment

Mr Gadkari informed that 80 buses in Nagpur are running on bio-CNG generated from sewage. He also said that his ministry has spent Rs. 1,300 crores for saving the tigers and are now committed to the transplantation of trees. Transplantation is the technique of moving a plant from one location to another. Mr Gadkari shared that the technique will be implemented during the construction of the Dwarka Express highway in Delhi.

Swati Thiyagarajan, environment journalist, believes that transplantation is a great technique but to ruin virgin forest and then transplant makes no sense. She said,

When you kill virgin forest, you are not only removing trees that have taken 300-400 years but also the ecosystem that is 1,000 of years old with biodiversity which you can never replicate.

Ms Thiyagarajan reiterated that economic development cannot be at the cost of environment. She suggested having stringent environment impact assessments (EIA) while raising the question on the new draft EIA 2020 that dilutes the environmental laws that industries need to follow. Making a case of the impact of industrialisation on the environment, Ms Thiyagarajan said,

We had a massive well blow up in North East. The fire raged for 2 months before it could be brought down. The oil well had violated laws and was near Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, which is Asia’s largest fresh wetland. The fire spewed petroleum, ash and tar everywhere and killed critically endangered dolphins, thousands of migratory birds and ruined so much of the sanctuary. The local people had to leave their homes because they couldn’t breathe.

Also Read: #SwasthyaMantra Telethon: Experts Discuss Learnings From COVID-19 Pandemic And The Way Forward

Ms Thiyagarajan clearly stated that today if we discount the environment for economic gains, tomorrow we will have more pandemics that will ruin the economy.

So how do we ensure both the development and well-being of nature? Bittu Sahgal, Founder, Sanctuary Nature Foundation, recommends nature based solutions. He said,

The damage we have done is in the name of economy, but economy is the wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. The techno sphere is the wholly owned subsidiary of biosphere. Bring the degraded forest and wet lands back. Bring the wet lands back. This needs a large number of people to be employed. We would probably employ between 30-40 million people to bring natural India back through labour and human based solutions that will cause GDP to bubble upwards.

Harish Hande, Magsaysay awardee and founder of SELCO India, who has been working on bringing solar energy to the poorest sections of the society, also shared his views on protecting the environment. Talking about whether the future lies in renewables and if it is the only way forward, Mr Hande said,

What we have actually forgotten is that India has been mostly decentralised economy. In the decentralised system, solar makes a lot of sense. What I mean by solar is not just putting solar plants but to ensure decentralised utilisation of solar energy to create democratise livelihoods, democratise the delivery of health and democratise the delivery of education. Start making bubbles of 100-300 km where you start looking at production and consumption of those 100 kms. That is the only way to actually look at efficiency and utilisation of energy and thus solar makes economic and social sense as well as leading to consuming less. It is how you create those bubbles.

Also Read: COVID-19 Pandemic Has Taught Us The Link Between Human Health And Environment: Actor Dia Mirza

According to Mr Hande, COVID and climate change crisis majorly affect poor across the world and by using solar we can help them. Mr Hande trusts the disparity of wealth exposed by COVID can only be solved by solving the problem of environment and added,

Environment sustainability and financial sustainability can be solved with social sustainability. We should use COVID-19 as a platform for research and development for the world. The solutions for Assam are replicable for Tanzania and the Philippines. The solutions for Madhya Pradesh where you interact solar energy and drought resilient solutions for the farmers are good for Ethiopia and Central Brazil.

Mr Hande also noted that every country needs to work towards environment and then only we will be able to resolve the issue.

Shantanu Moitra, Score Composer, Musician and Pianist too called to go back to the basics to protect the environment. He said,

The value of our ‘Kulhad (earthen cup) ki chai’ is not only romantic but very eco-friendly.

At the telethon, Mr Moitra shared a very heart-warming story from one of his travels which tells us that we need to make the environment a part of our life. He said,

I saw a girl and asked her to bring her family for a group photo. The girl didn’t return for a while and her mother told me that she has gone to call everyone in her family including plant, cows, calf, and a dog.

Also Read: #SwasthyaMantra Telethon: Experts Discuss Environment Degradation And Urge The Youth To Become Agents Of Change

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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