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Linkage seen between deforestation and epidemics

By Prof BKP Sinha & Prof SS Pai- 02 Mar 2021
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New Delhi (02.03.2021): Two eminent professors from Amity University have looked for, and found, the linkage between increasing deforestation and rising numbers of epidemics. 

Prof. B. K. P. Sinha (Ret IFS), who is an adviser to the University, and Prof Somnath S. Pai have shown in a research paper that, in the 20 years since the beginning of the new century, while the world has doubled its loss of pristine forest cover, it has also invited as many as 52 epidemics of which Covid 19 is, of course, the worst one since the Spanish/American Flu of 1918-20.

The research paper points out that the accelerated deforestation has accelerated contact between humans and the creatures of the wild. For instance, the forest bats have been moving from their original habitat to orchards that have replaced jungles in many places, thus increasing their contact with human beings.

Bats, like many other wild creatures, host a number of viruses that are supposed to be deadly for human beings.

They have argued that though statutory provisions exist in India and many countries globally to protect forests and biodiversity, it is common knowledge that these laws are often broken with impunity by developers and land mafias alike with law enforcement systems often looking the other way.

They have quoted Daniel Nepstad, tropical ecologist, as having said, “My worry, frankly, is that people are going to cut down the forests more if this is where they think the next pandemic is going to come from”.

The research paper says: "Our fear and anxiety, the very tools that evolutionarily allowed our survival in the wild, now make us look foolish with all the technological advancements that we have achieved to better our living conditions in opposition to nature. When we place greed over ecology, natural forces are bound to punish us heavily and Covid19 is but a small example of the ferocity with which nature can strike back."

Referring to the progress made in biotechnology since the emergence of SARS in 2002, they have pointed out that coronaviruses circulating in bats have been in the focus of researchers with an aim to predict the next outbreak. They say that with Covid19, it is now pertinent that researchers must expand the surveillance efforts to track coronaviruses and other viruses in other animals as well.

 They say that "it is our responsibility that we address issues related to public health, climate change and the environment in a holistic manner. We have to understand that a thriving ecology is required for the sustainability of the human population and it can only survive if we leave a livable world for our future generation."

[By Prof BKP Sinha (Ret IFS) & Prof Somnath S Pai] 

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