COVID is becoming the new normal in Pakistan. With the toll reaching up to 541,031 confirmed cases and 11,560 deaths as of 29th January 2021, COVID is a household name in Pakistan. However, merely focusing on the harm it causes to human beings might not do justice to the environment we live in.
Our environment is as affected as we are by this uncalled-for cataclysm. No matter how rich or poor a country is, COVID has unmasked the weak links and vulnerabilities of healthcare and social systems. It has left a toll on our economies and exposed the fragility of our strategies. COVID’s merciless spread poses a massive crisis all over the world. Be it the superpowers or the sub-Saharan countries, and COVID jeopardizes every country’s system to a fiasco.
However, the problem magnifies its spread and potential fatalities in areas where the people lack even the necessities of life, let aside the precautionary needs to prevent the spread. COVID has highlighted the disparities, inequalities, and health risks globally due to our failure to uphold a standard of these basic life needs such as water and sanitation. People in such countries lack the most accessible and basic shield of protection against the pandemic.
Ensuring a consistent supply of pure drinking water, uncontaminated water for domestic uses, proper draining, or sanitation lessens the risk of propagation of the pandemic. Moreover, most of those people are, to an extent, unaware of hygienic practices that are an absolute necessity at this time.
Situation in Pakistan
Pakistan is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. The per capita annual water availability has reduced from 5140 m3 in 1950 to 1000 m3 in 2014 and even lower today. Just before the pandemic broke out, WHO published a report, by the name of Safer Water, Better Health, claiming that at least 9.1% of global disease burden and at least 6.3% of total deaths due to these diseases can be reduced only by maintaining the right protocols for water, sanitation, and hygiene. This implicates that in countries with prevailing water, sanitation, and hygiene, the spread and fatality of COVID tend to amplify. Hence becoming a lot more deleterious.
There is a strong and positive correlation between a higher fatality rate, lack of access to pure drinking water, and lower sanitation standards. The climate impact of a global pandemic of COVID-19 remains to be scrutinized and examined. A recent explorative study showed a 17% decrease in daily global carbon dioxide emissions in April 2020 compared with the previous year.
The transportation sector is responsible for roughly 23 percent of global carbon emissions. The enormous decrease in travel activities due to COVID-19 lockdown in most countries has led to a reduction in CO2 and nitrogen oxide emissions and ozone creation, and particulate matter.
The Paris Climate Accord of 2015, adopted by every country, was set to continue again after a hiatus in November 2020 at COP26. The countries were to present their plans to mitigate the actions leading to climate change. The postponement, however, allowed the countries to enact stimulus packages that do not consider climatic implications.Moreover, The World Conservation Congress to examine conservation measures globally has been postponed to September 3-11, 2021, from its original date in 2020 in light of this pandemic.
Some countries, private companies, and multinationals had to divert funding away from climate resilience or renewable energy projects due to their finances being depleted by the pandemic.
COVID’s spread worldwide increased our use of plastic- gloves, masks, plexiglass dividers in stores and offices, disposable shopping bags due to increased takeaway and delivery services by eateries, and water bottles. Most of this gear is non-biodegradable and will cause severe consequences in the next few years. It has led to more private vehicles since the safety protocols require one to maintain social distancing.
We cannot sum up if COVID will lead to a better future or worse. However, fighting against this pandemic has led to an awakening for humankind to recognize the shortcomings and weaknesses against such pandemics and natural global calamities. It has put a harsh spotlight on the strategies and pathways to improve air quality, mitigate climate change, implement wiser water use, and improve sanitation and waste management.
Governments and societies must, at every cost, increase resilience and tenacity in the new start after the pandemic. It has made us realize the importance of every piece of the puzzle, which makes up a prosperous nation, be it social, economic, educational, or healthcare sector; only a combined effort of all these areas will lead to success and prosperity for a country