By Prabhakar Kukdolkar

The Corona virus, known as COVID-19, has created a world-wide panic situation. There are controversies about the virus – whether it is a laboratory-made or natural in origin. Even if it is made in laboratory, it has its roots in the nature. Some selfish people might have designed the virus making some special changes in it due to their vested interest, yet its basic biochemical composition is natural.

The fear that this virus has created in people’s mind, has never been experienced in the past. Humans have successfully dealt with many such deadly viruses in the past; but, the Corona virus is spreading across the globe a wild fire. Everybody is terrified and disturbed.

In the past, the human race also came out of famines, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, forest fires and many more calamities; however, the fear today is unparalleled.

The fear is about the destructive side of nature and the microorganisms like viruses and bacteria. This state of fear may last for a long time, and certainly has the potential to bring about radical changes in ideological, economic and social behaviour. In the coming years, we will see these changes happen quickly.

The unlimited use of natural resources and their fair distribution has been a major global issue. In 1982, a UN report highlighted importance of the fair distribution of natural resources. It mentioned that a Swiss person was using the resources equivalent to forty persons in a developing country. The UN, in this report, urged the nations to reduce this disparity as quickly as possible. But then the whole world got affected by a ‘virus’ of self-centred development.

Instead of getting reduced the disparity continued to escalate. The number of very wealthy people in the world increased, and also the upper middle class emerged. These rich people could not be forced to act; therefore, nothing could be achieved even from the international environmental movement and international treaties such as the Paris Treaty on Climate Change (2016).

But in the last two months, all the wealthiest people in the world suffered tremendous monetary loss. This has opened up a strong possibility of decrease in their current opposition to environmental conservation. China has already begun by banning the sale of all kinds of wild animals.

When the world would get out of the horrific situation that Corona virus has created, countries other than China are likely to put greater priority to the conservation of the nature. The drastic changes that world would see now, will be termed as the ‘Corona effect’. It is said that something good always emerges out of evil.

The Corona effect will give an opportunity to have a new model of sustainable development, and it will be the best model ever created so far. Among several models of development we have implemented in India since Independence, agriculture, education and industry have been the top priority in the last two decades. Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi showed the world that we were sensitive to environmental conservation by launching the Project Tiger in 1972, and bringing the Forest Conservation Act in 1980. 

But the leaders and the later governments did not show this sensitivity towards the nature and conservation. Due to this, there has been an immense loss of natural resources and ecosystems in the country. The forests got depleted, loss of wildlife habitats was huge and the biodiversity heavily declined. As the conflict between humans and animals increased, laypeople became desperate because of the loss of life and money. This created a feeling of hatred towards wild animals. That is why people are constantly demanding killing of wild animals. In this regard, the awareness work done by the government and many non-governmental organisations, so far, has had limited success. Hence, due to greed natural resources were indiscriminately exploited.  

A striking example of this is deliberate setting of forests fires. In last few years, millions of wild animals were burnt to death in these fires, several species of wildlife were lost and environmental balance got disturbed.

The fact that repeated exposure to wildlife increases the risk of exposure to viruses such as Corona, which has not been possible in the last fifty years, despite the diligent efforts, is now more likely to be caused by the Corona virus. For the first time, a virus like Corona would compel the rich and poor all of over the world, to become sensitive to the issue of environmental conservation. 

Therefore, all the models of quick development, so far adapted, would become useless, and they have the chance of disappearing. Thus, achieving sustainable development through environmental protection seems possible. It would not be unfair to say that all the people engaged in environmental conservation work are eager to see this change.