COVID-19: in a context to Environment

It is evident that COVID-19 has affected every aspect of human life; be it social, economical, industrial, as well as impacted the planet Earth bringing significant changes in its biosphere and atmosphere.

By Sobia Riaz1*, Hafiz Abdul Kareem2


In twenty first century, water quality is the most concerned issue of modern era. On one hand, water is considered as most crucial natural renewable resource on one hand while on other hand increasing anthropogenic activities pose serious threats to natural water reservoirs such as aquifers all around the world. Hence, water contamination by a variety of pollutants resulting from different industrial, agricultural and domestic activities is now a global trepidation. These activities including urbanization and industrialization has increased the per capita water consumption rates in industrial sector but confined the human access to cleaner water or portable water with probable unquantified costs. According to United Nations (UN) recommendations, the succeeding decades are important regarding future water availability as water scarcity issues may rise following both water quality and quantity challenges. Both the delivery of cleaner water and effective wastewater management are crucial factors in controlling and battling against global pandemics such as COVID-19. In such pandemics, it is recommended to keep hygiene level at best by hand sanitization, hand washing to decrease the transmission of pathogens. On February 11, 2020 World Health Organization (WHO) named the disease as COVID-19 that was being caused by novel coronavirus SARS-CoVs. First case of this pandemic was reported in Wuhan, China in late 2019 and then it has spread globally. COVID-19 is the acronym that stands for coronavirus disease of 2019 and it belongs to pathogenic family of SARS-CoVs which triggers different viral disease specifically respiratory disorders in human and animals. The chief symptoms of this viral infection are fever with minor cold, suffocation, and respiratory infection.


 It is obvious that almost a year ago, most of us learnt our first term COVID-19 and subsequently there was flowering on new terminologies including social distancing, self-isolating, flatten the curve, “covidiot” (any individual ignoring public safety measures), and covexit (strategy for already existing lockdown) and coronacoinages. Within no time we became experts of learning important differences such as between epidemic vs pandemic, quarantine vs isolation, respirators vs ventilators, and contagious vs infectious. Hand hygiene (also cogitated with handwashing) is considered the basic, convenient, and cost-effective safety measure being practiced to avoid or lower the risks and transmission of nosocomial infections of pathogens. As World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) proposed the strategy to lower the health risks and recommended handwashing with soap for a specific time meanwhile they also recommended to switch off the tap while lathering the hand with soap for about 20 seconds to decrease the water consumption and water loss. Effective water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) is a crucial safety strategy during global pandemics such as COVID-19 but in the interim by increasing the per capita water consumption it adversely impacts both water quality and security as wastewater is not well managed and treated in developing nations. Due to increased water consumption activities has increased the water demand worldwide, as total water demand has been raised from 20 to 25% in India, and 40% in Jordan. This sudden increase in water consumption rates and ineffective wastewater management has significantly exerted pressure on natural water reservoirs.  Globally, particularly in developing nation’s water insecurity is the major challenge and is increasing at a constant rate hence putting the residents at risk, making more susceptible to such pandemics. Such practices has brought terrific pressure on already over-burdened natural water resources to meet the existing gap of demand in water supply system. As water resources run dry in summers, this situation will be further enflamed. Although, handwashing results in water loss but there are no past studies reporting regarding the water loss due to handwashing activity worldwide


As all the countries under the vulnerability of this global pandemic, were busy in restraining it through adoption and enforcement of public health safety measures to flatten the curve hence since March 2020, many countries worldwide enforced the lockdown. These strategies included along with many personal and national level measures that directly or indirectly impacted the environment, air quality, and hence climate change. For instance, during lockdown, and the upsetting situation of pandemic leading to social distancing has played an important role in improvement of air quality and climate system by interruption of air traffic and suspension of industrial production and economic activities. Subsequently, there was an obvious change in air quality as many cities reported increased air quality with improved visibility that was accredited with reduction of emissions from industries, local transport, power generation and other economic activities.  On the other, as carbon dioxide concentration in atmosphere reached at 417.1 parts per million (ppm) as recorded in May 2019 but COVID-19 safety measures also decreased the daily carbon emission of 17% as recorded in April 2020. It is because the carbon dioxide that we have already emitted into the atmosphere have persistency in atmosphere for about hundreds or thousands of years. Many satellites images from NASA showed that there was significant decrease in gaseous and other pollutants emissions of many cities. Due to suspension of local traffic and restriction on industrial activities, average of 53% and 57% decrease was evident in nitrogen emissions in Europe and Wuhan, China respectively as compared to past 3 years average level. Whereas, the concentration of fine particulate matter PM2.5 was decreased by 8% and 42%, and increase in ozone concentration ranged from 2.4% to 27% in Europe and Wuhan respectively. Reduction in nitrogen emission was attributed with the increase in ozone concentration. Hence in a positive way, COVID-19 has played a crucial role in the process of decarbonization that was suggested by climate scientists in order to lower the carbon levels in the atmosphere. While considering the strategies and safety measures, many countries were unable to meet the basic precautions such as use of masks and personal protective equipments (PPEs). The need for more emergency services coupled with a reduction in tax revenue has taken an economic toll on cities and states. As a result, some have had to delay and divert funding away from climate resilience projects and renewable energy to health and care.


As a result of COVID-19 strategical, precautionary measure Earth has been witnessed massive increase in plastic waste. As COVID-19 has greatly enhanced the demand of plastic products such as gloves and masks, plexiglass dividers in stores or offices, and disposable shopping bags. Such personal protective equipments (PPEs) when referred as waste are not discarded properly and are still littering in parks, streets and floating over beaches and lakes. Due to lockdown, all the restaurants relied on take-away and home delivery services and shopping online ultimately resulted in more use of plastic packaging increasing the carbon footprint of e-commerce globally. Most of the developed countries are recycling such waste but the conditions are worst in developing countries.


It is evident that COVID-19 has affected every aspect of human life; be it social, economical, industrial, as well as impacted the planet Earth bringing significant changes in its biosphere and atmosphere. Although, globally an improvement in air quality was reported but certainly it is not a fundamental and long-lasting solution of air quality and climate related issues such as global warming. As after the restoration of industrial and other production activities these gaseous emissions are likely to bounce-back. On the other hand, massive waste generated in the form of one-time disposal items require significant treatment and handling costs that may indirectly result in extra amount of air pollutants.


Authors:  Sobia Riaz1*, Hafiz Abdul Kareem2 1Institute of Soil and Environmental Sciences, University of Agriculture Faisalabad, 38040 2Northwest A&F University, Yangling, Shaanxi, China. 712100

Sobia Riaz

HEC Indigenous PhD Scholar at University of Agriculture Faisalabad #Environmentalist

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