Time for nature amidst COVID-19

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T S Haokip

As people expressed their joy and thanked National Lockdown for the new state of; the clean Ganga, recovering of the ozone hole, the appearance of dolphins in Mumbai’s Marine Drive, and the improvement in PPT in metropolitan cities, I for one am deeply concerned. Not because I am a pessimist. Rather, because I am an optimist and believe in the restoration of normal life post-COVID-19, which is when human activities will start functioning with all the stops out and we will be back to wiping the slate clean. The theme for World Environment Day 2020 is ‘Biodiversity’, which focuses on ‘time for nature’ and providing the essential infrastructure that supports life on Earth and human development. Nature has given us almost everything; are we willing to give anything in return?
Responsibility & Priority
The onus of shouldering environmental concerns lie with all of us. While some people believe that the world is presently reeling under a curse in the form of COVID-19 for its reckless attitude towards the flora and faunas, a few others believe Covid19 is a phenomenon where the world is resetting itself. Our action is surely responsible for many regretful eventualities, which should be avoided, but the belief that the world is cursed for it or resetting itself by default could give some people the wrong solace that we need not render any efforts to change the environment. Plastic usage is almost under controlled but emission is one factor we will have to tackle. Of all the lessons one could derive during this lockdown, putting the resetting and curse theories aside, is but the scientific phenomenon of the air getting cleaner with fewer automobiles that need special attention and further research for its possible application in vouching for new ideas that rely on e-vehicles and e-everything. Global efforts to control climate change should continue; carbon emission and carbon credits should be the topics dominating the tables of powerful nations.
Development hiccups
Concerns for environmental issues, however motivating and justifying it might be, could be a fly in the ointment, in ushering development as was witnessed in Narmada, Nandigram, and the tribal belts of Chattisgarh. Ensuring better packages of rehabilitation and rehabilitation coupled with sincere decisions based on expert findings of the environmental impacts should be taken so that our greed does not get the better of us. Striking a balance between preserving the environment as well as allowing the continuity of development activities should be the mantra. The benefit of the doubt, if any arise, should preferably be given to the environment.
Tribal Rights and Environmental concerns 
We will have to plant many more trees, for we cannot stop cutting trees altogether as we need them for fuel, furniture, etc. Also, we have to abide by commitments on Global Warming, for words on climate change are real and we could feel it in our skins. It is however equally important to not just consider the concerns of people who care environment alone but also of people who could be affected by our love for the environment. Our thoughts, therefore, should rightfully include the poor rural inhabitants whose circumstances would force them to cut trees for fuel and hunt deer for food to feed their starving families no matter what message is delivered to them. Unless of course, they are compensated with an alternative source of livelihood.
Future Obligations 
The US, China, Russia, and major countries like India, in great contrast to their present political engagements, will need to shoulder exemplary role dotted with significant initiatives, befitting of world leaders, on preserving biodiversity, protecting the world from adverse climate change, and promoting awareness on environmental concerns by leading from the front. The United States, the second-largest emitter of carbon, should revisit its decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord for the larger interest of the global efforts and the sake of humanity.
On the individual level, our simple efforts of- switching off appliances which are not in use, planting trees, avoiding plastic bags, and educating people around us, will go a long way in ensuring a clean and safe environment. We cannot depend entirely on pandemics and lockdowns for a clean environment always; we will  have to give time to nature and its concerns when all our basic needs are given to us by nature. This endeavour is not our gift to the next generation but our obligation, as a present beneficiary, to ensure the prevalence of a livable environment and to not destroy the future of our children. Happy Wold Environment Day to all.
( The writer is a former development professional is the author of the book HILLY DREAMS. More details at www.tshaokip.com )

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