By Dr. P. K. Jena in Bhubaneswar, September 26, 2020: The year 2020 is the darkest period of human society with the appearance of the monstrous tiny coronavirus. The virus unknown to the world before, appeared in a filthy environment in Wuhan, China, in the later part of 2019.

It appears that the infected people of China during various occasions freely intermingled with the people from different parts of the world and as a result the coronavirus spread its wings like forest fire. During this nine to tenth months, in the world, millions of people have been affected by the virus and lakhs of people have died in absence of any proper medicine to cure and prevent the attack of the virus.

The respective governments of different countries have advised their people to stay at home as much as possible and while outside to maintain social distancing using mask and at home frequently washing hands with soap as well as sanitizing various usable things brought from outside.

All over the world, the industrial, commercial, educational, social and religious activities have been very much slowed down and restricted. As a result, millions of people are found to be unemployed and the GDP of every nation has drastically cut down. However, this calamity has brought all the nations together to develop and produce suitable medicines to control and prevent the menace of coronavirus.

Till a couple of hundred years back the world was the most comfortable and beautiful place for all living beings particularly for human beings to enjoy the life with plenty of resources under a clean and healthy environment. But the reckless way of our living particularly after industrial revolution by exploiting various natural resources like water, forest, minerals, fossil fuels etc., have resulted in increase of the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, disappearance of most of the forest and wetlands and intense pollution of land and rivers with appearance of all types of deadly diseases.

Global warming due to release of greenhouse gases are increasing to an alarming level in the atmosphere. Since the industrial revolution to date, the earth temperature has gone up considerably resulting in melting of glacier and sea ices, increase in sea level, fluctuation in weather, adverse effect on fresh water resources etc. resulting in various types of calamities for all living beings particularly for human beings.

These are mostly due to burning of huge quantities of fossil fuels releasing large quantities of poisonous gases like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and sulphur and fine particulate matters (PN2.5) from vehicle engines, thermal power plants and other industries., rapid degradation of forests, conversion of wetlands into residential, industrial and agricultural activities and release of untreated solid wastes and effluents to the environment. Air pollution has been mostly responsible for low birth weight, increased acute respiratory infection, asthma, lung cancer, stroke etc. In this way, the air pollution along with land and water pollution is causing sufferings and unnatural death for millions of people every year in this little planet.

A study by World Health Organization has estimated the effect of climate change on human health. It is reported that, the climate change is responsible for increase of about 3% of each of diarrhea and malaria and 3.8% of dengue fever death worldwide in the year 2004.


It is also stated that, climate change may increase cardio respiratory morbidity and mortality within ground level ozone. Exposure to high concentration of ozone results in increase in asthma and other respiratory diseases with premature mortality. It is further reported that, climate change along with air pollution in 21st century, is likely to adversely affect millions of people, increase in coastal flooding, short supply of fresh water, increase in malnutrition and also sufferings and premature death through deadly diseases like cancer, asthma, heart attack, dengue etc.

There is no doubt that the COVID–19 is the deadliest pandemic in human history by which millions of people on this earth have been affected and lakhs of people have died so far during the year 2020. However, “the dark cloud has silver lining”. During the outbreak of coronavirus, the lockdown and shutdown in different parts of the world have brought down appreciably the pollution level in the atmosphere as well as in land and water bodies.

For instance in New Delhi during the 1st phase of total lockdown (from 21st March to 14th April 2020), there has been a significant decline in air pollution. The air quality index (AQI) has been 53, which is a drastic reduction from previous year figure of 176 on 31st March. Similarly, during this period, in Mullamutha river in Pune, which runs across the city, the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) has reduced from 61.61 mg / liter to 52.07 which is close to the permissible limit of 50.

This was due to limited activities in commercial, private offices, hotels, schools and colleges resulting in release of less amounts of sewage from these organizations. Similarly, the chemical oxygen demand (COD) has also dropped from 159.65 mg/liter to 67.7 during the same period, which is lower than the permissible amount. Such improvements in the purification of environment in different parts of the world have been possible because of control in releasing less amounts of pollutants.

Let us start from this stage to further improve the health of our ‘Good Earth’ by using environment friendly technology in different socio economic activities. Let our living on this planet be environment friendly. The followings are some of the activities in this direction which should be practiced seriously by all human beings.

1. Reduce the use of fossil fuels particularly in transport and domestic sectors as well as in some industries and thus releasing least amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
2. At the same time, all efforts should be made to harness energy from sun, wind and hydropower as well as biomass and utilizing these in various areas in larger amounts.
3. Constructing small dams at suitable sites of rivers and harnessing hydropower from these and utilizing the water for various purposes..
4. Renovating the existing wetlands and developing new ones with necessary provision for harvesting rain water in these.
5. Greening the catchment areas and both sides of rivers through large scale plantation of economic trees and also undertaking afforestation programmes in mined and other barren areas.
6. Proper management of solid wastes, sewage and industrial effluents to reuse or recover values instead of dumping these as such on land and water bodies.

At the same time it is suggested that, to keep coronavirus away each of us should strictly observe the practice like using mask and maintaining social distance in public place, washing hands thoroughly with soap and maintaining general sanitization while at home. It is very much hoped that, by the middle of 2021 it would be possible for our scientists to develop the effective medicines to prevent the attack of coronavirus. Let us also hope that, very soon we will be able to defeat COVID–19 and lead an environment friendly life on this Mother Earth.

Former Director General, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, India

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