By Nathan Kiwere
Restricted human interaction during the Covid-19 crisis has appeared as a blessing on nature and the environment at large.
Reports from all over the world are indicating that after the outbreak of Covid-19, environmental conditions including air and water quality in rivers are improving and nature is blooming.
As explained in part one of these series, if there is something positive to take from this terrible crisis, it is the fact that the environment has benefited from the curfews, lockdowns and reduction in international travel.
Improvement in air quality
One of the obvious gains from the Coronavirus has been the improvement in the quality of air. This has been as a result of the grounding of transportation machines such as automobiles and aircraft.
This newspaper has previously published a story about the dangerous air that Ugandans breathe in.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that about 3 million people die each year from ailments caused by air pollution and that more than 80 percent of people living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed safe limits.
The situation is worse in low-income countries like Uganda, where 98 percent of cities fail to meet WHO air quality standards.
The biggest danger posed by automobiles is the emission of Nitrogen dioxide into the air, which is harmful to all forms of life. It is easily absorbed through the lungs and its inhalation results in heart failure and sometimes death.
Some scientists have dubbed the current environmental cleansing occasioned by the pandemic as the largest ever global air pollution experiment.
Besides the economic gains from tourism, it is true that uncontrolled conventional tourism poses potential threats to many natural areas.
According to a report entitled ‘Environmental Impacts of Tourism’ by Ugur Sunlu of Ege University, tourism causes the same forms of pollution as any other industry. For instance, air emissions, noise, solid waste and littering, releases of sewage, oil and chemicals, even architectural (visual) pollution.
Typical physical impacts include degradation of ecosystems. An ecosystem is a geographic area including all the living organisms (people, plants, animals, and microorganisms), their physical surroundings (such as soil, water, and air) and the natural cycles that sustain them.
Since Uganda is well known for its diverse ecosystem of flora, fauna and unparalleled landscapes that attract more than 1 million tourists annually, the six months break from tourism can be considered a positive impact on these environmental attractions as they are able to regenerate.
Effects of using masks
As we celebrate the positive impact of Covid-19 on nature and environment, we should also be aware that there is a flipside to it.
Today, the government is enforcing stringent adherence to wearing of masks in public places where by some of these masks are made of synthetic material. This is a threat to the environment because they are always littered everywhere.
Also, plastic face shields used worldwide are an environmental problem. Tracey Read, founder of the non-plastic organization, Seas without Plastic in Hong Kong, says masks are made of polypropylene, a type of plastic which takes a very longtime to decompose in the soil.
All in all, the positive environmental effects of Covid-19 are likely to be temporary. Thus, we need to acknowledge the fact that this pandemic has been disastrous to human beings.