July , 2021, Volume : 2 Article : 13

Environmental impact of COVID 19

Author : Nandita Mondal, Pragati Pramanik Maity and Anirban Mukherjee


The whole world is devastated by the on-going outbreak of Covid-19. Along with human health, the environment is also severely affected by Covid-19. To contain the virus, several countries have imposed lockdown. Lockdown has caused severe economic impact along with the livelihood of the people. Not only that, Covid-19 has affected water and air quality, noise pollution and wildlife behaviour. However, this pandemic realized us how we have exploited the environment and enforced human-induced climate change. The global response of COVID 19 taught us that the whole world should work together to combat the crisis of mankind.

Keywords: Environment, COVID, impact

The latest and biggest threat the whole world is facing right now is the on-going outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome corona virus 2 (SARS –COV-2) i.e.  COVID 19 (WHO. 2020a). First case of these diseases has been reported at Wuhan province of China in December 2019.Since then; it spreads over almost whole world and has been declared as pandemic on 11th March 2020. It was reported that this virus is novel corona virus which is a single standard ribonucleic acid virus of the family Coronaviridae order Nidovirales (Peters et al., 2020). This virus has tremendous capability of transmission from human to human very rapidly either person to person contact or via droplet produced by the infected people while coughing sneezing and talking. Till date, 172,956,039 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 3,726,466 deaths, has been reported worldwide (WHO, 2021). So to contain the virus and prevent human to human transmission several counties in the world imposed complete lockdown to stop any kind of public gathering. Several countries have also imposed travel ban across the border (Islam et al., 2020). This unavoidable situation has shattered the whole system and stopped socioeconomic growth. Overall the pandemic has caused a huge global socio-economic loss but directly or indirectly affected the environment.

 Impact of COVID- 19 on environment

Complete nationwide lockdown, travel ban across the border, restriction on mass gathering have created a huge global loss of human resources but left a positive sustainable change towards the environment (Cellini et al., 2020). Use of excessive anthropogenic resource of energy have been cut down drastically, Intense farming activities were stopped , privet and public transport was significantly lower during the lockdown .As a result  exploitation of environment was significantly reduced than the previous years. On the other hand, disposal of hospital waste, excess use of plastic made PPE kit, gloves, and masks has created a massive biomedical waste which has become difficult to manage (Vanapalli et al., 2021)

 Impact of COVID on air quality

Lockdown due to COVID outbreak have some positive side, improvement of air quality is one of them. Burning of fossil fuels in various sectors is the key source of air pollution by emitting pollutant like CO2, NO2, CO, PM2.5 & PM10 etc. Driving and aviation is the key contributor of emission, contributing 72% and 11% of greenhouse gas emission from transport sector respectively (Henriques, 2020). As there was a travel ban, this emission has reduced significantly up to 23% in global carbon emission last year. In 2020, there is a drop in global emissions to 0.3% (Henriques, 2020).In New York, 50 % emission was reduced last year due to strict lockdown. In China, as per the report published by Quere et al. (2020), daily global emission of CO2 has been decreased by 17 % by early April compared to the mean 2019 level. Individual emission of counties reduced to 26 % of their average value. A study with sentinel 5P and TROPOMI satellite along with continuous ambient air quality monitoring systems shown that a drastic and clear reduction in the pollution level due to cut down of fossil fuel consumption in transport industries and energy sector. Up to 24 % decrease in consumption of diesel is seen during the lockdown period compare to previous year. Overall, the consumption of petroleum products in India decreased by 18% during 2020 (Table 1) (CREA, 2020).

Table 1: Change in consumption of petroleum product in March 2020 compares to march 2019 in India (CERA, 2020)

Petroleum product

Change in consumption in March 2020 Vs. March 2019















Lubricants and Greases






Petroleum coke






 Not only had the petroleum product but also consumption of coal has also been reduced 1.9 % during lock down (CERA, 2020)

According to NASA and European Space Agency, there was a 30 % reduction of global N20 emission. These two agencies showed that during lockdown 70 % N2O emission is reduced in India and 30 % in China which leads to a significant decrease in South Asian region. In European Country there is a 30-60% reduction of N2O emission during lockdown period shown by European environmental agency report (EEA, 2020). Rui et al. (2020) have found 5.39 % decrease in PM2.5 and 13.66 % decrease in PM10 level due to restriction on human gathering and industrial work. In India PM2.5 and PM10 fells by 42.76% and 91.28% respectively during nationwide lockdown (Ghosh et al., 2020). The City like Delhi Mumbai Which experiences usually a heavy traffic during normal time hasdrastically lower PM level. Decrease of 35 % and 14 % respectively is reported for both the cities. For PM2.5 reduction of 33 %, 14 %, 14 %, 22 %, 23 % reported for Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata respectively (Van et al., 2020). Similartrend has also been observed in PM10 concentrations since the COVID19 lockdown took place in Europe, where only experienced an inconsequential fall of 5 %-1 0% in PM2.5 (Van et al., 2020).

Impact of COVID on water quality

One of the main reasons for water pollution is domestic and industrial effluent waste. During the lockdown period industries were closed so discharge of untreated waste was significantly lower. In India Rivers was in poor state, as almost 40 million litters of waste water enter in to the river and other water bodies. According to CPCB report it was found that most part of the river Gunga not only violating the drinking water standard but also have high total coli form and less dissolve oxygen. But in 19th April 2020 a real time analysis of CPCB shows that water of Gunga has met drinking water standard and biological oxygen demand is now less than 3 mg /lit, dissolve oxygen greater than 4mg/lit and ph-6-9. Yunus et al. (2020) reported that suspended particular matter concentration has been reduced by 15.9 % in Vembanad Lake, the largest freshwater lake of India. A study conducted on river. Damodar reported that during lockdown there was less algal bloom and water quality was better than previous because the nutrient supply through the waste was considerably lesser (Chackraborty et al., 2021). Yamuna one of the most populated river of India showed a reduced level of pollution. The PH EC DO BOD COD have reduced up to 1-10 %, 33-36 %, 51 %, 45-90 % and 33-82 %, respectively (Singhal and Matto, 2020).

 Effect of COVID on Noise pollution

Noise pollution, caused by elevated level of sound generated by construction work, vehicle, and machine etc. Considered as the 3rd most hazardous pollution after air and water (WHO). Long time exposure to excess sound level may affect physiological health and can cause hypertension, sleeping disorder, cardiacattack, mentalfatigue, and some time deafness. It was reported by WHO that most of the population in Europe are exposed to a sound level of more than 55 dB. But surprisingly during lockdown due to COVID 19 the sound pollution level decreased significantly. In Italy, almost up to 6dB lower sound level than normal has been observed (Zambon et al., 2021). In Madrid city 4dB lover sound level recorded during pandemic peak (Asensio et al., 2021). In USA, Even in city centres and super market 1-3 dB lower than normal sound level has been noted down during lockdown periods. During quarantine and lock down people are forced to stay at home which decreases economic activity and communication worldwide, as a result noise levels are reduced in many cities (Zambrano et al., 2020). In Delhi noise level has reduced drastically by 50% during lockdown period due to reduction of vehicle movement. In Govindpuri metro station of Delhi 50-60 dB sound level has been reported, in previous a year which was 100dB (Gandhiok and Ibra, 2020). According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB, 2020) of India, noise level of residential area of Delhi is reduced 55 dB (daytime) and 45 dB (night) to 40 dB (daytime) and 30 dB (night), respectively in recent year. Overall, COVID-19 lockdown, and lessens of economic activities reduced the noise pollution around the globe.

 Effect of COVID on wildlife behaviour

All of a sudden reduction in human activity and sudden silence surprised the wild animals too, and they feel safe to come out of there duelling place. For evidence, a puma walked along a street in Santiago, Chile; the herd of deer in Nara, Japan and raft of ducks crossing the road in Paris observed. (The Telegraph, 2020; The Guardian, 2020b) peahens seen at MN Marg during lockdown in New Delhi and a leopard seen on Hyderabad Road during lock down (The Telegraph, 2020; The Guardian, 2020b). Turtles found nesting in peacefully at Florida during the lockdown period (CNN, 2020). After nearly three decades, a south Asian river dolphin which is known as ‘Ganges Dolphin’ was back at Kolkata, Times of India reported on 25th April 2020 (Times of India, 2020c). Noise pollution affects the birds life also .So the silence during lockdown birds have peaceful. Typical changes in behaviour of partial migratory birds are observed in sanctuaries. The bird’s species like open bill stork, painted stork, grey heron, spoonbill, spot-billed pelican and ibis generally leave by March. But in this year, they have extended their staying because of less human activity and less noise pollution in lockdown period (The Hindu, 2020).

 Impact of COVID on waste management

Alarming rise in cases of COOVID 19 has enhanced the complexities of plastic waste management. Because the personal protective equipment (PPE) made of plastic are the most reliable and cheap defence against the exposure to the virus (Herron et al., 2020). Doctor Nurses and health care worker who else are in the primary contact of infected people PPE, face mask, gloves are the only protection. Maximum of them are for single time use only. Notonly the health care workers but also for the common people face mask become mandatory to contain the virus spread. So, these increased demands of single time useable plastic have changed the dynamics of plastic waste generation (Scaraboto et al., 2020). According to a WWF report, “if just 1 % of the masks were disposed of incorrectly and dispersed in nature, this would result in as many as 10 million masks per month polluting the environment” (Italy WWF, 2020). In China it is reported to have increased medical waste from personal protective equipment like gloves, face masks and eye protection due to a surge in personal protective equipment and immediate disposal after use (Ma et al., 2020). Medical waste such face masks and gloves increased by 350% generating about 1,200 tonnes of medical waste compared to the usual waste of 275 tonnes in Barcelona (ACR, 2020).Wuhan province of China where the 1st case of the virus noticed produced more than 109 metric ton of biomedical waste than normal (Zambrano-Monserrate et al., 2020). In Ahmedabad city of India biomedical waste generation has increased from 550-600 kg /day to 1000 kg /day. (Somani et al., 2020). However, due to lack of knowledge about infectious waste management, most people dump these  safety equipment  face mask, hand gloves etc in open places and in some cases with household wastes (Rahman et al., 2020). Such dumping of these used product creates clogging in drainage system which leads to water pollution (Singh et al., 2020; Zambrano- Monserrate et al., 2020),thus mismanagement of disposal of masks and PPE kits and other wastes has become a new nuisance to the environment (NGO ocean Asia). Not only has the biomedical waste, staying at home increased household waste as well as municipal waste. Due to pandemic and quarantine policies, there was high demand of online package food at doorstep which ultimately leads to huge household waste from shipped package material (Zambrano-Monserrate et al., 2020). However, in several countries like USA has stopped waste cycling process to contain the spread of disease from waste. (Somani et al., 2020). Over all disruption in municipal waste management increases land as well as, environmental pollution worldwide.


This pandemic has left immense effect on human and environment. After starting as health crisis it has become a social economic environmental and political challenge. All of these environmental consequences like improvement of air water wildlife quality are not permanent. So, this is high time to take a lesson from pandemic and think about sustainable environment management. To achieve this, along with sustainable use of natural resources many behavioural changes should be adopted. It is high time to shift towards less energy intensive industries, use of energy efficient technologies. Industries should be made in a specific zone and proper emission management should be there (Hysa et al., 2020). To cut down emission from transport people should encouraged using public transport. During lock down the main reason behind comparatively pure air is the reduction in use of fossil fuel, but to maintain global and economic growth it is not possible to curt off energy demand. Use of renewable energy like solar, wind, hydro power can be adopted as the alternative option. To control the water pollution waste should be treated before discharge. To reduce the excess burden of biomedical waste the infectious material should be disposed as per the guide line of WHO (WHO 2020c). Maximum people are not aware of proper disposal of used gloves masks and other safety equipment so government should encourage extensive awareness campaign (Rahman et al., 2020). For ecological restoration, ecotourism practice promoted, sustainable livelihoods, cultural preservation, and biodiversity conservation should be taken care of (Islam and Bhuiyan, 2018). However, this pandemic realised us how we have exploited the environment and enforced human induced climate change. Global response of COVID 19 taught us that the whole world should work together to combat the crisis of mankind. To secure the existence of human life in nature we have to take care of Mother Nature for a sustainable environment.


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