My post-COVID wishlist

Pic: Sudha Narasimhachar

All of us are fed up of reading and listening to news about this dreadful COVID-19 pandemic. Such a small virus has caused such turbulence in the entire world.  

None of us ever imagined such a catastrophe would strike us and we will be safe nowhere on the planet! We have heard of natural calamities, wars or even other viral attacks but those would be in certain countries or regions and at least the rest of the world could help the people affected to come out of the difficulties. But, COVID-19 has taken away that option from mankind now. All of us are affected. So, who has to help whom?  

Whatever we thought was progress and advantageous has turned into the biggest threat today.  We globalised our lives — our education, jobs, food, culture, entertainment, travel, health and everything. We were so proud that now we could fly anywhere on the planet, eat whatever we wish and do whatever work we please. But at this juncture, this achievement is staring at us. 

The virus could reach all nooks and corners of the planet only because of this. In the 18th and 19th centuries, when such viral attacks like plague struck mankind, it was easier to contain it within certain regions, by just cutting them off from the rest of the country. Despite that, we understand the Spanish Flu infected nearly a third of the world population and killed 50000000 people over three years from 1918 to 1920. So, we can understand how difficult it is to defeat COVID-19, which seems to have come fully prepared to destroy the world. 

We are hearing about so many positive things happening around us, as we all sit inside our homes with fear. The traffic of all kinds has come to almost a standstill all over the world, except for the bare minimum vehicles that are ferrying our grocery, medicines, vegetables and fruits. The air pollution too has come down considerably. As per an analysis, PM2.5 levels in Bengaluru reduced by an average of 28% during COVID-19 lockdown.

People are reporting how they are getting so many winged visitors to their homes. In a few places, even the wild animals have set out into the urban spaces, exploring the silent environs.  People of Jalandhar have captured the view of the Himalayas, which they could now see from their city, as they saw about 60-70 years ago!  

We all know for sure that restriction on human activities definitely leads to a better environment. But all this will not last long. It is not sustainable for us to sit locked in forever. The curtain has to be lifted and the drama has to begin. But this time on, will we make some sustainable adjustments that can please mother earth and we can live in harmony with nature?

I feel the following could be tried out for a healthier future:

  • Now that we have realised that many people could efficiently work from their homes, this policy could become a permanent one even after the lockdown period. This way, the companies will save tons of money which they invest in landed property, furniture and fixtures, electricity, water and so many more things, maintaining huge buildings in all cities. By doing this, they will also be helping the countries to reduce the traffic on the roads and hence burdening the urban infrastructure. Instead, a lot of green spaces could be created in every city. Smaller offices with a minimum number of essential staff members can be a solution. I read that TCS is already planning this. Other corporates could also follow suit.
  • The above main step will help the city to limit its unwieldy growth in the name of providing better infrastructure to the IT sector and focus on making cities environmentally friendly and livable for all citizens. Also, the civic authorities should ensure providing 24-hour power supply and efficient Wi-Fi connections to all residents, to enable corporates to take the above decision.
  • One day in a week or at least two days in a month could be declared as ‘no-vehicles’ day (except, of course for emergencies) all over the world. That will make such an impact on the air quality around the world and save so much of resources. We could start with our country.
  • Now that we have realised how healthy we can be by eating freshly cooked home food, we have to change our lifestyles and cook more often at our homes. Many people have even started growing vegetables and spices in their little kitchen gardens or roof gardens. This could be popularised more widely by the civic agencies with the support of Agricultural Universities. 
  • The issue of migrant labourers has blown so big and complicated that we are all scared as to how the Government is going to settle this. Now that the labourers want to rush home for safety and have realised how in such difficult times, they are the worst affected in crowded cities, the Government should think of measures to make their lives back in their villages sustainable and comfortable by encouraging them to farm or offer other supplementary services there. For this, they need financial support, training and counselling.
  • We have realised that we can live very happily without so many things like the huge malls, which are gobbling up acres of land everywhere and killing all urban greenery. Thus, we should stop constructing more and more such places which only create an artificial economy, that is definitely not sustainable at such times.
  • Hygiene and sanitation are very important factors that the Government, the public and all private companies have to focus on all the time. Clean and hygienic public toilets at every 2 km distance and in all parks have to be maintained in every town and city. Instead of malls, these should be constructed. People urinating and defecating in public should be severely punished. Contractors of buildings should be penalised severely if they do not provide clean toilets and drinking water facilities to their labourers. They cannot just leave them at lurch, forcing them to use all the vacant sites around.
  • Eateries and hotels should be monitored more stringently regarding the cleanliness, health, hygiene and public nuisance.
  • All public spaces like bus stands, railway stations and airports should necessarily have clean and hygienic toilet facilities. All train toilets should be green toilets and have to be maintained properly and all fixtures should be checked often since on most of the trains, the flush, taps and faucets hardly work!  
  • All petrol bunks, shopping arcades and hotels should have clean and neat toilets and the public should be allowed to use them freely. All commercial establishments like shops, banks, salons, etc., should have their own clean toilets. Owners who merely build shops with no toilets should be penalised because all the shopkeepers and employees use roadsides as public urinals.
  • Now that people around the world have realised what their basic needs are, all of us have to switch to minimalist lifestyles, avoid buying unwanted materialistic articles, which only burden our planet by ending in garbage dumps, polluting the soil, water and air.  
  • Garbage management has to be seriously taken up by the Government, involving scientists, environmentalists and NGOs and this nuisance of garbage dumps all over the city and in all rivers and water bodies has to be attacked urgently.  

These are just a few of the actions that we need to take to make this planet a better place to live in.

[Disclaimer: This article is a citizen contribution. The views expressed here are those of the individual writer(s) and do not reflect the position of Citizen Matters.]

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About Sudha Narasimhachar 1 Article
Sudha Narasimhachar is a retired banker and freelance writer based in Bengaluru.