Urban Drive Society

Why humans are the real threat in post-COVID world

Mumbai: People walk along the sea-facing promenade at Marine Drive, during the first phase of unlocking the ongoing COVID-19 nationwide lockdown, in Mumbai, Sunday, June 7, 2020. (PTI Photo/Mitesh Bhuvad)(PTI07-06-2020_000210B)

Mumbai: People walk along the sea-facing promenade at Marine Drive, during the first phase of unlocking the ongoing COVID-19 nationwide lockdown, in Mumbai, Sunday, June 7, 2020. (PTI Photo/Mitesh Bhuvad)(PTI07-06-2020_000210B)   | Photo Credit: PTI

Why our post-Covid world will continue to see jam-packed roads, crammed buses and overcrowded markets

Over the last few weeks, we’ve all (well, most of us) have been angered by the inhuman treatment of migrant labourers by the government. Several thousands walked home for days, the many who waited for a train were charged for tickets, and a few collapsed midway and never made it home. As the issue was tossed between the Centre and State governments, the migrants were blamed by some leaders for a surge in Covid cases. And now, as pictures of Mumbai’s Marine Drive, overcrowded with walkers, go viral, why are these leaders silent?

In this column, a lot has been written about issues concerning our natural environment, the cities we live in and the wrongdoings of our government. But what we so easily forget is unless the mindset of our society changes, we will continue to see different versions of the same story.

In April this year, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar sanctioned wildlife clearances to several projects (located in eco-sensitive zones) in the name of development. Today, the same minister, who is yet to comment on the explosion (at an Oil India Limited well) in Assam’s Tinsukia district, has raised concerns over a pregnant elephant’s killing in Kerala after the news went viral and made headlines in publications such as The New York Times. On World Environment Day (June 5), Javadekar went on to launch the ‘Nagar Van’ or ‘Urban Forests’ scheme in collaboration with 200 corporations and cities. After allowing projects that require the felling of acres of forest land, what is this initiative if not eyewash?

Ever since news of the pandemic arose in early 2020, experts have highlighted how human actions are causing irreversible damage to nature, giving rise to zoonotic diseases. One would have imagined that a few months in lockdown — perhaps Nature’s way of pushing us indoors — would have helped us introspect; that we would come out of the crisis more sensitive and aware of our excesses. Sadly, this isn’t true and won’t be for a long time to come.

People push each other to get into a queue outside a wine shop in East Delhi on May 4

People push each other to get into a queue outside a wine shop in East Delhi on May 4   | Photo Credit: PTI

Air pollution in China has now surpassed its pre-Covid levels and given that our government isn’t taking the issue seriously, it is only a matter of days before we make similar headlines. Our leaders could have taken this time to chart a post-Covid framework for everything from public transport to shopping malls, and instead we are seeing an extension of our pre-Covid days.

We will continue to see jam-packed roads, crammed buses and overcrowded markets. In Mumbai, one of the worst-hit cities, the day that lockdown norms were relaxed, ‘morning walkers’ were out on the streets. In Tamil Nadu, people are crowding fish markets and liquor outlets with not even a pretence at social distancing. I’d really like to know what they are thinking: Is the pandemic a farce? Does an ease in relaxations mean the virus has disappeared? Do they not know? Or do they not care?

It isn’t surprising that we are now envious of NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken (who docked in the space station last month) moving about freely and hugging. If you’re wondering if a better future awaits us on Mars, I hope you are wrong. Isn’t ruining one planet enough?

A fortnightly column on environmental sustainability and urban issues

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jul 15, 2020 3:08:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/why-humans-are-the-real-threat-to-the-planet/article31793198.ece

Next Story