- The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted human life and the economy in an unprecedented way.
Hypothesis about COVID-19 transmission
- It is not yet fully understood which species have contributed to the transmission of COVID-19 and how. However, according to experts, there is strong evidence that it spread from a wildlife market in Wuhan, China. Two hypothesis have been discussed:
(a) the virus jumped from bats directly to humans; and
(b) from bats to pangolins and then to humans.
Pandemic provides an opportunity
- The pandemic is an opportunity for the global community to explore the consequences of its unscientific actions on nature and prepare for behavioural change.
Consequences of human action on nature
- Scientists believe that the loss of biodiversity, and wildlife trade, have strong linkages with the emergence of epidemics.
Loss of biodiversity- Emerging pathogens
- In order to clear land for agriculture and development, forests and habitats have been destroyed which led to loss of several species.
- The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services shows that people extensively encroach natural habitats; hence biodiversity is declining significantly.
- By disturbing the delicate balance of nature, ideal conditions for the spread of viruses from animals to humans have been created.
- Dangerous infectious diseases (Ebola, Bird flu, MERS, SARS, Nipah, etc.) have been transferred from wild animals to humans.
Illegal trade of wildlife
- Trafficking in wild plants and animals and wildlife products has become one of the largest and most lucrative forms of organised crime.
- By deliberately pursuing and hunting certain species or by establishing monocultures, habitats and ecosystems are being damaged, fragmented or destroyed.
- Illegal wildlife smuggling is an emerging threat to India’s unique wildlife heritage.
The way forward
Mainstreaming of biodiversity
- The mainstreaming of biodiversity is needed in our post-COVID-19 development programme.
- Biodiversity management committee, a local-level statutory body can play a significant role in this regard.
- Mass biodiversity literacy should be India’s mission.
Rebuild environmentally responsible world
- There is a need to revisit our relationship with nature and rebuild an environmentally responsible world.
Live in harmony with nature
- Nations should work towards realising the 2050 vision for biodiversity, ‘Living in Harmony with Nature’.
- ‘One health’ approach must be followed which considers the health of people, wild and domesticated animals, and the environment.
- There is an urgent need to strictly regulate high-risk wildlife markets, promote green jobs and work towards achieving carbon-neutral economies.
Strict enforcement of existing acts
- India should strictly enforce
- The Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, which prohibits the trade of 1,800 species of wild animals/plants and their derivatives;
- The Biological Diversity Act of 2002;
- Strategies and action plans including the National Biodiversity Targets; and
- The National Biodiversity Mission.
- Ecosystem integrity will regulate diseases and restrict the transmission of pathogens from one species to another.