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Nature is ready to forgive mistakes: how COVID-19 affects the environment

Ecologist Vladimir Sidorov - on the consequences of self-isolation for the ecology of the Khabarovsk Territory

Satellite images capturing traces of human activity on Earth, or rather industrial waste or exhaust emissions from automobiles, have shown a decrease in air pollution in China and already in Europe since the outbreak of coronavirus. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantine have reduced CO2 emissions. There are several reasons: we work more from home, we use transport less, and concerts and sporting events are canceled in the world. And what will happen when we defeat the coronavirus? In resolving environmental problems, one should not rely on a pandemic, said Vladimir Sidorov, chairman of the Khabarovsk Regional Branch of the All-Russian Society for the Conservation of Nature, to consider a pandemic.

Nature is ready to forgive mistakes: how COVID-19 affects the environment

Vladimir Sidorov

Chairman of the Khabarovsk Regional Branch of the All-Russian Society for the Protection of Nature
In many industries, which have a greater impact on the environment, there is no quarantine - energy, production and transport continue to work. Although the number of cars on the roads has decreased, but it will have more local impact.

However, it is still possible to note the positive influence of quarantine and the regime of self-isolation on the state of the environment. Firstly, the spread of landscape fires in the Khabarovsk Territory has decreased. People began to travel less often to summer cottages, hunting and fishing, to picnics, and, now, we can say that this year there were significantly less fires. Nevertheless, they are, and the fire hazard period has begun. It is hoped that people will be prudent and quarantine will affect the smoke in the towns of the region.

Secondly, we, as the south of the Far East, are affected by the transport of polluted air masses from China. Smoke from agricultural dwellings is especially strong when farmers of the border regions of the PRC go out into the fields and burn what they failed to burn last year. However, today in China due to the pandemic, industrial production is still suspended, so these processes are less common than usual.
But all the same, it is probably impossible to say that environmental quality indicators are changing significantly due to the coronavirus and quarantine pandemic in connection with this situation.

There are also unpleasant moments in the quarantine situation. Thousands of Khabarovsk residents engaged in separate waste collection are forced to accumulate a huge amount of recyclables at home - separate collection campaigns have not been held in Khabarovsk since mid-March, however, immediately after lifting the restrictions, everyone will be able to hand over the accumulated resources for processing.

We continue to record discharges of untreated wastewater from utilities - you can recount the treatment facilities operating in the normative regime in the region on the fingers of one hand.

Illegal logging, unauthorized landfills, environmental violations by some organizations, which, now due to interruptions in the work of control bodies, have become more active in illegal activities related to waste incineration or unauthorized disposal. Everyone who has something to clean up is doing this. Sovgavansky district, Vanino, Lazo district, suburbs of Khabarovsk - appeals from public environmental inspectors of the region and eco-activists are received as usual. Now we are launching a new project to identify environmental violations with the involvement of local communities, but we recommend that people limit contacts and stay on the street.

And we can only talk about the positive effects of quarantine if it lasts a long period. However, everyone understands that our economy needs to start moving faster, it is necessary for enterprises and organizations to work more quickly - otherwise such an environmental improvement can be very expensive.

Therefore, in solving environmental problems, one should not rely on a pandemic and quarantine. And it is very good that you and I understood how much a person leaves indelible consequences with his presence in the biosphere, how much his activity leaves a mark, and that, by reducing its impact on nature, she is ready to play a lot for us through self-healing and self-regulation processes. Do not wait for weather quarantine, it is worth systematically changing your life, changing laws and making decisions related to limiting emissions and increasing fines for production, strengthening control over the activities of industrial enterprises, and also educating our citizens about the environmental culture and behavior in nature. These are the things that make our life on this planet possible.
September 29: current information on coronavirus in the Far East
Digest of regional events and latest statistics