Coronavirus: Impact On Environment

As the coronavirus pandemic unfolded across the globe, threatening lives and upending the world economy, it also had a profound impact on the environment. If we pay a close eye to all that is happening around us owing to the spread of this virus, we will notice that all the negative effects of coronavirus are restricted to the mankind only. As far as our co-owners of the earth are concerned, the flora and fauna as well as the nature itself, they are enjoying the positives out of this deadly virus. It seems as if the plants and animals are reclaiming the land that we forgot to share with them or instead snatched away from them. Also, it is quite vivid that environment seems to have pressed the hidden reset button that it had, to replenish itself.

Positive Impact on Environment

Slashed Greenhouse Emissions

  • With most vehicles off the roads, flights grounded and all but essential businesses shut, people in some of the world’s biggest cities appear to be breathing air with relatively safer levels of pollutants, data from SAFAR and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) show.
  • Delhi’s noxious smog makes the news every winter but it had a “satisfactory” air quality rating in recent days -- just like Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Pune, according to the System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR).
  • Global air traffic dropped by 60%. Taken together, these emissions reductions have led to a temporary dip in CO2 emissions from their pre-crisis levels, encouraging some to hope that our global society may indeed be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially over the long term to mitigate impending climate change.

Effects on Energy Consumption

  • In a significant and historic development, India’s daily power consumption has suffered a 26 per cent fall in less than ten days since 18 March.
  • As a result of the reduction in consumption and generation, there is a “drastic and clear reductions in pollution levels, which are a result of decreasing fossil fuel consumption in transportation, industries and energy sector.

River Pollution

  • The stringent lockdown measures also had an effect on India’s rivers. India’s pollution monitoring body said the water had even become fit for bathing in some areas, according to real-time monitors placed along the 2,575-kilometer (1,600-mile) -long river.
  • A recent analysis by the Delhi Pollution Control Board found that the quality of the Yamuna River flowing along New Delhi has also improved during the lockdown. The report cited a decrease in runoffs from 28 industrial clusters and less trash.

Paris Agreement

  • The coronavirus is driving us towards the emission reduction targeted by international climate agreements such as the Paris Agreement. So, the outbreak has forced us to reduce emissions that we cannot meet [with the targets] normally.
  • However, coronavirus is also threatening developing countries’ plans to step up climate action this year as meetings are being postponed and resources are needed to combat the pandemic.

Negative Impact on Environment

  • Rise in Volumes of Unrecyclable Waste: Local waste problems have emerged as many municipalities have suspended their recycling activities over fears of virus propagation in recycling centres. Food retailers have resumed using plastic bags at checkout points citing health concerns over consumers’ reuse of paper bags. In addition, due to stay-at-home policies, many consumers have increased their consumption of take-away food delivered with single-use packaging.
  • Spike in the Amount of Organic Waste: With the emergence of import restrictions in export markets and sharp declines in the availability of cargo transportation services, the coronavirus crisis has led to increased volumes of un-shippable agricultural and fishery commodities. Many export-oriented producers produce volumes far too large for output to be absorbed in local markets, and thus organic waste levels have mounted substantially. Because this waste is left to decay, levels of methane (CH4) emissions, a greenhouse gas, from decaying produce are expected to rise sharply in the crisis and immediate post-crisis months.
  • Maintenance and Monitoring of Natural Ecosystems Temporarily on Hold: Natural ecosystems and protected species are at risk during the coronavirus crisis. In many countries, environmental protection workers at national parks and land and marine conservation zones are required to stay at home in lockdown, leaving these areas unmonitored. Their absence has resulted in a rise of illegal deforestation, fishing and wildlife hunting.
  • Cessation of Ecotourism: The stoppage of ecotourism activity has also left natural ecosystems at risk of illegal harvesting and encroachment. In addition, as ecotourism is often a major economic mainstay in many destinations, rising unemployment caused by the crisis may lead many households to harvest resources from fragile ecosystems unsustainably as they seek alternative means to provide their households with food and income.

Effect on Wildlife

  • Spotlight on Global Wildlife Trade: The pandemic is thought to have originated at a market selling wild animals in China, throwing a spotlight on the global wildlife trade. There are growing calls for countries around the world to ban “wet markets” – which sell live and dead animals for human consumption – to prevent future pandemics.
  • Zoo Animals Getting Sick- The coronavirus is a zoonotic disease, meaning it jumped from animals to humans. Now, it seems to be jumping back. However, a news emerged that a tiger at the Bronx Zoo, USA tested positive for the coronavirus. It is thought the tiger, named Nadia, along with six other big cats, were infected by an asymptomatic zoo keeper.
  • Wildlife Running Wild- With humans self-isolating in their homes, animals that usually stay away from urban areas now have space to roam. In northern India, a herd of deer was caught on camera walking the streets of Haridwar during the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown. Similarly, wild boars have been spotted in the centre of Barcelona, Spain.


  • Many of the environmental challenges caused by the coronavirus crisis will gradually resolve on their own once the crisis comes to an end and previous levels of economic activity resume. But it is also true that the benefits of air pollution reductions will also be erased. Overall, the crisis may thus have no permanent environmental effects.
  • However, what we have learned about the environmental benefits and risks of sharp drops in global economic activity will certainly help us to better understand the mechanics of environmental sustainability, societal consumption patterns, and how we can reduce environmental degradation in a future crisis-free world.