Written By – Wei Ni
Nowadays, everyone including you and me, are familiar with the pandemic – COVID-19. In Malaysia, it is little more than six months since the first Covid-19 case happened. As a response to this global health crisis, many countries have implemented lockdown, as well as Malaysia. During the lockdown period, our lives have changed profoundly. And also due to the lockdown implementation in the world, we get more understand the importance of achieving the balanced relationship between humanity and environment.
Environment Before and After Lockdown Period
The lockdown implementation has led to lower the pollution levels and given us the chances to look at the new environment which we haven’t found that before. Storytelling through data has become increasingly important in helping people come to the terms of the effects of the crisis. For instance, the lockdown in Wuhan, China resulted in a 63% reduction in nitrogen dioxide concentration. Do you know that this falling in air pollution actually may have prevented up to 496 deaths in Wuhan, 3368 in Hubei province and 10822 in China as a whole?
Besides, the air pollution in India dropped to a 20-year low just because of one week into lockdown. You can see that the picture below shows the air quality in Delhi, India has improved remarkably during the lockdown period. Isn’t it the air quality in the picture on the right much better than the picture on left? So why not we work together to produce good air quality environment?
Environment in Malaysia under MCO
As well as in Malaysia, there is no question that the Movement Control Order (MCO) gives some positive impacts to the public. The nitrogen dioxide data has shown that there is a sharp drop in the air pollution in Malaysia over the lockdown period, especially in the urban areas. As compared to the nitrogen dioxide maps last year, the air quality has improved during the MCO.
Beside the air pollution problems has levelled down, the river pollution that was previously uncontrollable in Malaysia also has had a positive effect. From the pictures showing aerial view of Sungai Penang, we can make a fair comparison before and after the lockdown implementation. You can see how river cleans itself when there is no much pollution load. So, the human activities, travelling and discharging wastes just to name a few, are closely related to the environment.
Have any BAD effects?
As you know, our environment was recovering during the lockdown period. However, do you find that COVID-19 also brings some negative impacts to our nature? To prevent the spread of Covid-19, we are taking lots of appropriate precautions, for example, wearing medical face mask, using hand sanitizer, even though using banned single-use plastic grocery bags instead of bringing own bags.
While facing a huge crisis, it is easy to lose sight of the long-term big picture. A lot of wastes, including face masks and gloves, generated at hospital and from the public which are made of materials hardly decomposable in nature. Additionally, the extensive use of sanitizer and disinfectants containing some toxic material to our environment. High consumption also resulted to an increasing amount of hygiene plastic bottles and packaging. If not disposed of properly, we will stay at dirty cities shortly. Besides, most of the imported agricultural products is halted during the lockdown period which led to increase the application of chemicals and pesticides. It is because the local farmers are under the pressure to produce more than planned. For long term consuming high amounts of agricultural products with the treatment of chemicals led to blindness, nausea, even though death.
Well, these problems seemed to be very tiny. But after a long period of this pandemic, rebalancing the relationship between humanity and environment will become a big issue, so we need to find out solutions that could help us to manage the balancing immediately.
What can an individual do?
After this pandemic, everyone will adapt a new normal. So, NOW is a great time to focus on waste prevention, recycling, as well as reducing pollution.
- Avoid excessive energy consumption, such as electricity and fuel.
- Learning and working by using zoom or teams or google meet to reduce travelling.
- Using environmentally friendly and biodegradable products as possible when taking away food.
- Decline using plastic bags and prepare your own grocery bags. If not, you can reuse the plastic bags yourself, even though recycle it.
- Clean and shake dry recyclables as possible to ensure the products get recycled.
- Put recycling and trash in the appropriate bins, not next to them.
- Learn how to shop wisely and store food properly, and always reduce wasted food at home.
- Wear fabric mask in community or public settings
For your further information, the link about the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recommended fabric mask materials and composition is attached below.
Lastly, the awareness of future generations about environmental preservation and the conscious use of natural resources and the creation of laws are main components to reduce the environmental impact. An important thing to note is that it will never be too late to start taking actions on saving our home, whereas the COVID-19 pandemic proves it. So, try to make some efforts on the environment. Undeniably, something as simple as using grocery bag or taking public transportation can also make a huge difference. If everyone does just a little bit, these small changes will add up to be a large impact on the environment.
NO EFFORT IS SMALL, so pick one of these new habits and begin it today!!
- Wuhan’s lockdown cut air pollution by up to 63% – new research. The Conversation. (2020). Retrieved 21 August 2020, from https://theconversation.com/wuhans-lockdown-cut-air-pollution-by-up-to-63-new-research-138084.
- Before-and-after photos show the dramatic effect lockdowns are having on pollution around the world. Insider. (2020). Retrieved 21 August 2020, from https://www.insider.com/before-after-photos-show-less-air-pollution-during-pandemic-lockdown.
- COVID-19 and the Environment: Impact and Response | UNDP in the Arab States. UNDP. (2020). Retrieved 21 August 2020, from https://www.arabstates.undp.org/content/rbas/en/home/presscenter/articles/2020/covid-19-and-the-environment–impact-and-response.html.
- Recycling and Sustainable Management of Food During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Public Health Emergency | US EPA. US EPA. (2020). Retrieved 21 August 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus/recycling-and-sustainable-management-food-during-coronavirus-covid-19-public-health.