Profits vs. the environment

Ju Waran

If there is anything good that has come out of the Coronavirus-19 pandemic, it is a cleaner world! There have been numerous reports of better air quality, cleaner rivers, even reports of swans and dolphins at the Venice Canals, and in India, some people are seeing the Himalayas for the first time!
Now it is time for the leaders of the world to decide - profit or the environment???

If there is anything good that has come out of the Coronavirus-19 pandemic, it is a cleaner world! There have been numerous reports of better air quality, cleaner rivers, even reports of swans and dolphins at the Venice Canals, and in India, some people are seeing the Himalayas for the first time!
Malaysia is bracing itself to return to normal life. On May 1st, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced a Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), which allows many industries to start operations, provided they adhere to the social distancing requirement.
What do think will happen to the environment when the rest of the world starts opening up again? Would the lessons from the pandemic be forgotten, or will they start taking notice of all the pollution and environmental degradation industrial activity had caused? Ultimately, in the name of economic benefits, would the leaders return their countries to traffic jams, congestions and high levels of pollutions?
A renowned free-market economist, Milton Friedman said that in times of crisis, seemingly impossible ideas, suddenly become possible. These are ideas that are sensible and fair, designed to keep as many people safe and healthy. Unfortunately, there are nations who practice predatory ideas that focus on further enriching the already wealthy. In the US for instance, ideas are being bounced on bailing out the airlines, cruise industry, fracking companies,* and hotels which are some of the wealthiest and most polluting sectors of the economy.
China, the origin of the Coronavirus epidemic has now controlled the disease and is slowly opening up its industries.
It recently reported that it is modifying environmental supervision to stimulate its economy. The country is the largest polluter in the world (followed by USA, India, Russia and Japan). According to its officials, the country will modify environmental supervision of companies that were disrupted by the coronavirus epidemic, and give them time to rectify environmental problems.
This move could wipe out the one major benefit the pandemic has produced so far: a marked drop in that country’s lethal air pollution.
According to reports, China has said it will exempt some firms from on-site environmental checks if they are involved in the production of materials used in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic or have low emission levels.
It has also simplified environmental assessments on some medium- and small-sized firms in the service industry, including restaurants, entertainment and hotels. China will also simplify assessments for some big projects in infrastructure, manufacture, transportation and animal husbandry, which involve intensive labour and have been hit hard by the virus.
As the nations of the world slowly begin controlling the epidemic, let us watch how much effort is put into preserving the environment, so we do not revert to the old polluting ways, and reverse the healing that took place during the global lockdown, because Earth is not out of danger yet.

*Fracking is a method to extract oil by injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, or boreholes, so as to force open existing cracks and extract oil or gas. This method can destroy drinking water supplies, pollute the air, contribute to the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, and trigger earthquakes.

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