Modification of natural landscapes and pandemics

Let us resolve to leave the standing forests and other natural landscapes alone and revisit the provisions of forest land diversion under the legal framework to minimise biodiversity loss and buffer humanity from zoonotic emerging infectious diseases.

India has the second largest population in the world with over half of the territory used as cropland. India's food production will need to increase substantially in the coming decades due to an expected population size of more than 1.6 billion in 2050. The larger population will drive energy demand and demand for other commodities, necessitating modification of natural landscapes.

To ensure food security in the future, agricultural systems will have to respond to population growth and changing dietary habits, besides climate change. An analysis shows that in India, in order to meet future food production demands, agricultural lands are likely to expand, and existing farmlands need to be intensified. Both processes however, will likely result in biodiversity losses.

Besides the intrinsic value loss, in the current context of coronavirus pandemic, it is important to note that biodiversity loss tends to increase pathogen transmission and disease incidence. Most epidemics do not just happen; they are a result of what we do to nature. Infectious disease, therefore, is largely an environmental issue.

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