April 2020



By BR Research on April 20, 2020

The skies have cleared in Lahore, a city known for very poor air quality. But so has been the case in many parts of the world. The coronavirus pandemic and climate debate is getting heated up. For some – mostly environmentalists and climate enthusiast – it is a warning from mother nature for the ill treatment of environment and climate crisis. Then there are others who do not believe in the climate-coronavirus connect, rather blame the destruction of natural habitat and the wildlife.

The executive director of the UN Environment Programme has said that the continued erosion of wild spaces has brought the world uncomfortably close to animals and plants that harbour diseases that can jump to humans. A research shows that 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases come from wildlife. Most of the recent infections like HIV, Ebola, Zika, SARS, MERS and bird flu have jumped from animals to humans.

But even for others– the less aggressive ones – it is a live show of how globalization and industrialization has contributed to the deterioration of environment. At the risk of sounding sadistic, the pandemic is showing how important it is to bring the environmental change.  Levels of air pollutants and greenhouse emissions have started showing significant drops in many urban centres as countries adopt measures to control and fight Covid-19 by mass lockdowns.

As industries, transport sector and businesses have closed down, there has been a sudden drop in emissions. It has been witnessed in China when only in the beginning there was a 25 percent decline in CO2 emissions and around 40 percent decline in coal usage. Compared to 2019, the level of pollution in New York reduced by 50 percent in March 2020. Emission cut has been between 40-60 percent for Europe in the last few weeks. The Air Quality Index for Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad have also witnessed improvement amid country-wide lockdown. At least the air quality is no more in the hazardous category.

So are these environmental changes and reduction in CO2 emissions fleeting or permanent? The good news is that global CO2 emissions could fall as much as 5.5 percent year-on-year in 2020. The bad news is that the cut would is very much likely to be short-lived so much so that 2021 could see emissions peaking again as economies return to business as usual.  So happened after 2008 Financial Crisis.

The utmost for economies right now is to come out of the lockdowns safe and sound and resume their previous lives. With that in mind, it is plausible that the plan is to go back to “business as usual” by providing bailouts to the transport, industrial and the aviation sector in particular – all three key contributors to global greenhouse emissions. In China that witnessed 25 percent decline in carbon dioxide emissions in February 2020 is back to burning coal by the end of March 2020 according to Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

But if coronavirus is considered a reset button, climate and environment could intelligently be made part of business and economic activity. Energy and power consumption mix could be made more environmental friendly with government facilitating solar and other clean energy technologies in various segments. Airlines could be subject to stringent emission protocols as they make a return and look for stimulus. In that sense, coronavirus could be the tipping point. But that looks too farfetched.



World’s researchers are tracking dramatic drops in air pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, smog and tiny particles.

AP Published Apr 22, 2020 04:45pm

An unplanned grand experiment is changing Earth.

As people across the globe stay home to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, the air has cleaned up, albeit temporarily.

Smog stopped choking New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, and India’s getting views of sights not visible in decades.

Nitrogen dioxide pollution in the northeastern United States is down 30 per cent.

Rome air pollution levels from mid-March to mid-April were down 49pc from a year ago. Stars seems more visible at night.

People are also noticing animals in places and at times they don’t usually. Coyotes have meandered along downtown Chicago’s Michigan Avenue and near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in US. A puma roamed the streets of Santiago, Chile. Goats took over a town in Wales, United Kingdom. In India, already daring wildlife has become bolder with hungry monkeys entering homes and opening refrigerators to look for food.

When people stay home, Earth becomes cleaner and wilder.

“It is giving us this quite extraordinary insight into just how much of a mess we humans are making of our beautiful planet,” says conservation scientist Stuart Pimm of Duke University. “This is giving us an opportunity to magically see how much better it can be.”

Chris Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, assembled scientists to assess the ecological changes happening with so much of humanity housebound. Scientists, stuck at home like the rest of us, say they are eager to explore unexpected changes in weeds, insects, weather patterns, noise and light pollution. Italy’s government is working on an ocean expedition to explore sea changes from the lack of people.

“In many ways we kind of whacked the Earth system with a sledgehammer and now we see what Earth’s response is,” Field says.

Researchers are tracking dramatic drops in traditional air pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, smog and tiny particles. These types of pollution kill up to 7 million people a year worldwide, according to Health Effects Institute president Dan Greenbaum.

The air from Boston to Washington DC is its cleanest since a NASA satellite started measuring nitrogen dioxide in 2005, says NASA atmospheric scientist Barry Lefer. Largely caused by burning of fossil fuels, this pollution is short-lived, so the air gets cleaner quickly.

Compared to the previous five years, March air pollution is down 46pc in Paris, France, 35pc in Bengaluru, India, 38pc in Sydney, Australia, 29pc in Los Angeles, US, 26pc in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and 9pc in Durban, South Africa, NASA measurements show.

“We’re getting a glimpse of what might happen if we start switching to non-polluting cars,” Lefer says.

Cleaner air has been most noticeable in India and China. On April 3, residents of Jalandhar, a city in north India’s Punjab, woke up to a view not seen for decades: snow-capped Himalayan peaks more than 100 miles away.

These maps made available by NASA show concentrations of nitrogen dioxide across China from January 1-20, 2020, before the quarantine against Covid-19 and February 10-25, during the quarantine. — AP

Cleaner air means stronger lungs for asthmatics, especially children, says Dr Mary Prunicki, director of air pollution and health research at the Stanford University School of Medicine. And she notes early studies also link coronavirus severity to people with bad lungs and those in more polluted areas, though it’s too early to tell which factor is stronger.

The greenhouse gases that trap heat and cause climate change stay in the atmosphere for 100 years or more, so the pandemic shutdown is unlikely to affect global warming, says Breakthrough Institute climate scientist Zeke Hausfather. Carbon dioxide levels are still rising, but not as fast as last year.

Aerosol pollution, which doesn’t stay airborne long, is also dropping. But aerosols cool the planet so NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt is investigating whether their falling levels may be warming local temperatures for now.

Stanford’s Field says he’s most intrigued by increased urban sightings of coyotes, pumas and other wildlife that are becoming video social media staples. Boar-like javelinas congregated outside of a Arizona shopping centre. Even New York City birds seem hungrier and bolder.

In Adelaide, Australia, police shared a video of a kangaroo hoping around a mostly empty downtown, and a pack of jackals occupied an urban park in Tel Aviv, Israel.

We’re not being invaded. The wildlife has always been there, but many animals are shy, Duke’s Pimm says. They come out when humans stay home.

For sea turtles across the globe, humans have made it difficult to nest on sandy beaches. The turtles need to be undisturbed and emerging hatchlings get confused by beachfront lights, says David Godfrey, executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

But with lights and people away, this year’s sea turtle nesting so far seems much better from India to Costa Rica to Florida, Godfrey says.

“There’s some silver lining for wildlife in what otherwise is a fairly catastrophic time for humans,” he says.




By Tufail Ahmed Published: April 16, 2020

KARACHI: With a surge in the number of COVID-19 patients in Karachi, medical waste from hospitals contaminated with infectious materials and bodily fluids of the patients poses a risk of the further spreading of the ravaging virus. Despite this, hospital staffers have complained that the waste is not being handled properly and no special instructions have been issued by hospitals or health authorities.

Per sources, on average, a COVID-19 patient’s bed in a public hospital generates about two to 2.2 kilogrammes (kg) of medical waste per day, and instead of being more cautious in handling the waste, it is being collected in a non-scientific way, a move that could potentially contribute to the spread of the virus.

“Instead of segregating the medical waste generated from the beds of coronavirus isolation wards, the waste is being handled in a regular way and added to the overall medical waste from the hospitals,” an official from the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), who requested anonymity, told The Express Tribune.

The official added that 13 patients are currently undergoing coronavirus treatment at the Jinnah Hospital.

“We are not given any special instructions regarding the handling of the waste. Cleaners are collecting the trash from the [isolation] wards and dumping them in big containers together with the regular waste,” he added.

The same practice is being carried out in all public hospitals, and no precautionary steps have been taken so far to handle the medical waste of COVID-19 patients. Moreover, the Sindh health department has also not issued any guidelines in terms of proper medical waste disposal at this crucial time.

According to the guidelines of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, medical waste generated from COVID-19 isolation wards is no different than waste coming from facilities without COVID-19 patients. Therefore, the management of laundry, food service utensils, and medical waste should be performed per routine procedures.

In Pakistan, however, the proper disposal of medical waste has been a controversial issue since a long time. Last year, hue and cry arose in Karachi after pictures and videos of tonnes of medical waste washed up on Sea View beach circulated on social media.

Sources revealed that while in some hospitals, medical waste is ‘recycled’ by an organised group through sanitary workers, other hospitals have no standard procedures to treat the waste. How and where the waste is dumped is not even known, and nothing has changed amid the ongoing pandemic.

Against the complaints of hospital staffers, senior representatives of public hospitals in Karachi assured that even though the waste is being handled in a regular manner, it is disposed of properly.

JPMC executive director Dr Seemin Jamali said that the hospital has an incinerator and a steriliser for the scientific disposal of patients’ medical waste, where they can safely dispose of medical waste at temperatures above 100 degrees.

The medical superintendent of Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi, Dr Khadim Hussain Qureshi, said that at present, there are 18 COVID-19 patients admitted at the hospital.

“[At the time of collection from the isolation wards], all medical waste from coronavirus patients is completely sealed in bags and disposed of in an incinerator and the process is monitored by the hospital’s infection control committee,” Dr Qureshi explained.

Meanwhile, the president of the Infection Control Society Pakistan (ICSP), Dr Rafiq Khanani, said that there is a high possibility of the deadly virus spreading from contaminated medical waste, therefore, it is crucial to dispose of it scientifically.

“Bodily fluids and other medical waste from infected patients as well as disposable medical equipment used on their bodies can transmit the infection to other people, particularly cleaners, medical and paramedical staff who are in direct contact with the patients,” Dr Khanani said. “Therefore, needles, syringes, drips, cotton swabs, tissue papers and medical tape, among other equipment, should be properly disposed of and not dumped in a regular way.”

He added that the clothes and bedsheets used by infected patients must be washed separately, while single-use personal protective equipment (PPE) should be disposed of in a plastic bag and into the general waste. Reusable PPE, such as heavy-duty gloves and boots (individual use) should be cleaned with detergent and water.

“Proper disposal of all liquid medical waste is very important as the virus can survive at different levels for nine to 10 days. Therefore, it is important that all medical devices which are for reuse must be completely sterilised,” Dr Khanani stressed.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2020.




AFP May 1, 2020

PARIS: There will be 11,000 fewer deaths in European countries under coronavirus lockdown due to a sharp drop in fossil fuel pollution during April, according to research released Thursday. Measures to halt the spread of coronavirus have slowed the region’s economies to a crawl, with coal-generated power falling by nearly 40 percent, and oil consumption by a third. “This will result in 11,000 avoided deaths from air pollution,” said lead author Lauri Myllyvirta, senior analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).

Globally, oil use has declined by about the same amount, with drops in coal consumption varying by region. An unintended boon of shuttered factories and empty roads has been more breathable air. Levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and small particle pollution known as PM2.5 — both toxic by-products burning coal, oil and gas — fell 37 and 10 percent, respectively, according to the findings. “The impacts are the same or bigger in many other parts of the world,” Myllyvirta told AFP. “So we are looking at an even larger number of avoided deaths.

In China, for example, NO2 and PM2.5 levels declined by a 25 and 40 percent during the most stringent period of lockdown, with an even sharper fall in Hubei Province, where the global pandemic began. Air pollution shortens lives worldwide by nearly three years on average, and causes 8.8 million premature deaths annually, according to a study last month. The World Health Organization (WHO) calculates 4.2 million deaths, but has underestimated the impact on cardiovascular disease, recent research has shown. Worst-hit is Asia, where average lifespan is cut 4.1 years in China, 3.9 years in India, and 3.8 years in Pakistan. In Europe, life expectancy is shortened by eight months. “Our analysis highlights tremendous benefits for public health and quality of life that could be achieved by rapidly reducing fossil fuels in a sustained and sustainable way,” Myllyvirta said. – Pollution and COVID-19

The happenstance evidence that less air pollution saves lives should guide governments deciding on how to reboot their economies, noted Maria Neira, the WHO’s director for Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “When we eventually take off our face masks, we want to keep breathing clean air,” she said, commenting on the findings. “If we truly care about the health of our communities, countries and global commons, we must find ways of powering the planet with out relying on fossil fuels.

Compared to other causes of premature death, air pollution worldwide kills 19 times more people each year than malaria, nine times more than HIV/AIDS, and three times more than alcohol. Another study comparing more than 3,000 US counties, meanwhile, found that PM 2.5 pollution is directly linked with higher COVID-19 death rates.




RAWALPINDI. The Forest department has decided to create sandal wood forests for the first time since the creation of the country. The Rawalpindi forest department would start its project to plant sandal wood from May 10 and all preparations in this regard have been completed too. In the initial phase, the forest complex.

The saplings have been prepared in the nursery of the forest department. Similarly, the forest department will also plant 500 olive saplings this years as well.

The Forest Administrator Saqib Mehmood told The Express Tribune that the sandal wood was one of the most beautiful trees in the world. He added that sandal wood could also be exported to earn foreign reserve as well as it was quite expensive.