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World Environment Day amid coronavirus Pandemic

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By- Dr. Konthoujam Khelchandra Singh
There is lots of discussion on the immediate effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the environment. According to a recent study published in the Science of Total Environment (Vol-728, 2020) carried out by Manuel A. Zambrano-Monserrate et al., highlighted the positive and negative indirect effects of COVID-19 on the environment. Some of their interesting findings indicatesa clear linkage between contingency measures undertaken to the improvement in the air quality, clean beaches and environmental noise reduction; however negative effects include increased amount of waste generation and decline in the recycling process, which will further cause contamination of land and water resources. They are of the opinion that as global economic activity gradually returns, the decreasing amount of Greenhouse gases concentration during the short period may not be sustainable means to clean up the environment. As reported by Bloomberg, COVID-19 pandemic has so far managed to reduce the global annual carbon emissions by a record 8%. Incidentally, this is in line with the suggestion of the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) for reduction in annual global carbon emission to 7.6%, if the global temperature has to be kept below 1.5degrees centigrade by 2030 as part of the Paris Agreement, 2015.Nevertheless, we have to be very cautious in our approach so that minimum impact will be there to our environment.  
World Environment Day (WED) is an annual event which is widely celebrated on 5thJune asa global day for positive environmental action. The WED was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 and has grown to become one of the main vehicles through which the United Nations (UN) stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action. WED is designed to give a human face to environmental issues, empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development, promote an understanding that communities are central to changing attitudes towards environmental issues; and advocate partnership which will ensure all nations and people enjoy a safer and more prosperous future. WED is also a day for people from all walks of life to come under one common goal to ensure a cleaner, greener and brighter view for the present and future generation.
The theme for the WED is “Biodiversity”. The Secretary General of the UN,Antonio Guterres in his message on the occasion of WED that in order “To care for humanity, we must care for nature”.  According to him “ Nature is sending a clear message; We are harming the Nature world-to our own detriment; habitat destruction and biodiversity loss are accelerating; climate disruption is getting worse; Fires, floods, droughts andsuperstormsare more frequent and damaging; Oceans are heating  and acidifying, destroying the coral ecosystems; And now a new coronavirus is raging, undermining health and livelihood; so on this WED, It’s Time For Nature”. So, we need to take important measures for safeguarding our environment.
Biodiversity is the variability of life forms on the earth. The air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat all rely on biodiversity.  Some of the major threats to biodiversity are (1) Human activities and loss of habitat: Biodiversity loss can result from a number of activities like habitat conversion and destruction, overexploitation of species; hunting and poaching, conversion of biodiversity rich areas for human settlement and industrial development, extension for agriculture, environmental pollution, encroachments of wetlands,. (2) Deforestation: Forest ecosystem are continuously cleared and degraded in many parts of the world leading to drastic loss in the biodiversity.(3) Desertification: Desertification and deforestation are the main cause of loss of biodiversity. Desertification process is the result of poor land management which are aggravated by climatic conditions; (4) Marine Environment: Rapid degradation  in the coastal and marine environment leading to loss of biodiversity; (5) Increasing Wildlife Trade: Due to rapid increase in wildlife trade leads to drastic loss of biodiversity; (6) Climate change:If the global warming continues unabated in the current trajectory, it is predicted that almost a third of the global flora and fauna could become extinct. As estimated by experts, the current rapid extinction rate is 1,000 times higher than the natural background extinction rate. These rates are much higher than previously estimated and likely still underestimated. So, in future there is probability of further rise in the extinction rates.
In the existing perspective, the role of the Intergovernmental science policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services (IPBES) is significantly relevant by performing timely assessment of knowledge on biodiversity on regular basis. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and five other biodiversity related conventions adoption of IPBES as the science policy interface is a strategic development. These assessments will surely further aid in monitoring the progress towards CBD’s Aichi Targets of the Strategic plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. However, there are many constraints to the struggles for biodiversity conservation. For instance, low priority for conservation of living natural resources, exploitation of natural resources for monetary benefits, inadequate evidence on the values and knowledge about the species and ecosystems, and unplanned urbanisation and uncontrolled industrialisation causes hindrance to the efforts directed towards biodiversity conservation.  
We all should be aware of the numerous benefits provided by biodiversity to humanity. Some of these are (1) Ecosystem services: protection of water resources, soil formation and protection, nutrient cycling and storage, pollution breakdown and adsorption, contribution to climate stability, maintenance of ecosystems, recovery from unpredictable events etc.  (2) Biological services: food, medicinal resources and pharmaceutical drugs, wood products, ornamental plants, diversity in genes, species and ecosystems.  (3) Social services: research, education and training, recreation and tourism and cultural values.
There is need for undertaking immediate action-oriented steps targeted towards conservation of biodiversity and at the same time encourage and increase our support to policies that conserves our valuable natural resources.We should reinforce our efforts in creating more awareness to encourage people for observing WED at various levels through all possiblemeans. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic online mode should be utilize to celebrate the WED. This will help in generating a positive impact for people to understand the importance of the sustainable use of biodiversitythat will take care of livelihoodssecurity as well as ecological security.

(The author is a Chevening Scholar currently working in the Department of Environmental Science, Pachhunga University College, Aizawl, Mizoram. He can be contacted at: [email protected])

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