Effects of COVID-19 on the Environment: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Sep 15, 2020 | 0 comments

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The effects of COVID-19 on the environment have not all been bad.

In the past few months, there have been many good effects of the worldwide pandemic.

Unfortunately, in other ways, the impact has been ugly.

Impact of human lockdown

During the height of the hard lockdowns in April and May, there was a sharp decline in air pollution due to less air and road travel.

Unfortunately, some environmental initiatives took a knock from the same reduction in tourism and travel.

The Good

When most of the world was in hard lockdown, fewer people outside led to cleaner streets, clearer waterways and wild animals exploring unusually quiet town centres.

Air pollution

In some areas of the world, particulate matter pollution dropped by 35% and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) decreased by as much as 60%.

This is great news for areas where air pollution is a major health risk.

Unfortunately, scientists have warned that these reductions may be temporary.

india air pollution

Carbon emissions in India were down for the first time in four decades. Source: CBS News


All over the world, local wildlife took advantage of the quiet streets to explore towns and cities.

Wild goats wandered the streets of Llandudno, Wales.

A hippo roamed the roads of St Lucia in KwaZulu-Natal.

Closed beaches encouraged large shoals of fish to venture closer to shore than usual.

goats llandudno

Goats in Llandudno, Wales, going after newly planted trees in the town. Source: WeForum

The Bad

Fewer visitors to wildlife reserves and sanctuaries might seem like a good thing, but it has a knock-on effect that could impact the animals.

Conservation funding

Conservation funding comes from ecotourism.

Many natures reserves haven’t seen visitors in months.

Conservationists are concerned that this will cause reserves and national parks to lose vital income.

In many cases, reserves will need to seek alternative funding.

Dependent wildlife

Wild animals in some areas of the world have become dependent on tourists feeding them to survive.

This is often discouraged but in some places it’s a vital part of the tourism industry.

With widespread travel bans, these animals are hungry and becoming unruly.

The Ugly

The long-term effects of the pandemic on the environment are yet to be determined.

It’s likely that critical legislation will be delayed or undermined because of changed priorities during the pandemic.

This could cripple long-term environmental efforts.

In South Africa, the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has gazetted air pollution (minimum emissions) standards that are twice as weak as the previous standards.


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