I am from Nepal, a small country from Asia where more than 29 million people reside. The effects of COVID-19 and climate change in my country have been quite serious. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the hardest hit sector of the economy in Nepal has been tourism. Nepal’s tourism sector generated Rs240.7 billion (about $2 billion) in revenue and supported more than 1.05 million jobs directly and indirectly last year, according to the annual World Travel and Tourism Council research report. The COVID-19 corona virus has, for numerous people, reduced their income to zero, directly affecting the life of people and country’s economy. With the total of 277,944 cases of covid in Nepal 3032 have lost their life from the corona virus. Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions are exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety. The lives of people have changed and the virus has not only harmed people’s health but it destroyed the self esteem and confidence that they have in them.
According to climatelinks.org “Nepal is highly vulnerable to climate change and has already experienced changes in temperature and precipitation at a faster rate than the global average.” The website climatelinks further states that water-related hazards in Nepal are triggered by rapid snow-and ice-melt in the mountains. During the monsoon there are also seasons of torrential rainfall in the foothills.
The outbreak of the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) first emerged at the end of December 2019, from the Hunan seafood market in Wuhan City, China, and declared as an international public health emergency a couple of weeks later by the World Health Organization. It is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). There is currently no conclusive evidence that climate has a strong influence on transmission. The SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes the COVID-19 disease has been transmitted in all regions of the world, from cold and dry, to hot and humid climates.
The global disruption caused by the COVID-19 has brought about several effects on the environment and climate. Due to movement restriction and a significant slowdown of social and economic activities, air quality has improved in many cities with a reduction in water pollution in different parts of the world. But the increased use of PPE (personal protective equipment such as face masks, hand gloves etc.), their haphazard disposal, and generation of a huge amount of hospital waste has had negative impacts on the environment. COVID-19 and climate change are somehow related and the recent outcomes has shown both positive and negative sides of climate changes. Some positive sides include reduction of air pollution and greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions, reduction of water pollution, reduction of noise pollution, ecological restoration and assimilation of tourist spots. The negative effects include an increase in biochemical waste generations, reduction of recycling and safety equipment use and haphazard disposal. Deforestation, which occurs mostly for agricultural purposes, is the largest cause of habitat loss worldwide. Loss of habitat forces animals to migrate and potentially contact other animals or people and share germs. Large livestock farms can also serve as a source for spillover of infections from animals to people. Less demand for animal meat and more sustainable animal husbandry could decrease emerging infectious disease risk and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the World Health Organization “Millions of Nepalese are estimated to be at risk from the impacts of climate change including reductions in agricultural production, food insecurity, strained water resources, loss of forests and biodiversity, as well as damaged infrastructure.”
I can only hope that in my home country, Nepal, will be taking many mitigation and adaptation actions to lessen the impacts from greenhouse gas emissions from not only the agriculture sector, but from energy sources, land-use change and forestry, industrial processes, and waste.