Going Green beyond the pandemic | Daily News


 

Going Green beyond the pandemic

Social media networks were abuzz during the past few weeks as nature freely unraveled itself while humans were in lockdown. Images of wild animals roaming the streets were plenty. Also trending were pictures of clear, blue skies where once there was smog, dust and tangible pollutants. The world was slowly changing, and Sri Lanka was no exception.

From an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 135 that bordered on the Unhealthy level category, the air quality of Colombo reached 17 during lockdown; foggy skies had become clearer, skyscrapers and high-rises clearly visible to the few with vehicle passes cruising down main roads that are usually bumper-to-bumper in heavy traffic. Not only did the lockdown reduce air pollution, it also cut back on noise pollution and solid waste pollution in Colombo as well as other towns and cities across Sri Lanka. But today, as we bounce back from the pandemic, the green-coded AQI has already transformed into yellow and reads ‘Moderate: Acceptable, with moderate health concerns’. So the question arises. Could the rebound be worse? How far will the trough of the trend be from this crest?

The world is still reeling from being hit by COVID-19, and along with it emerged disagreements and differences on a global scale; while the superpowers point fingers and play the blame game, the rest of the world is falling victim to relaxed reinforcements of environmental regulations with priority given to salvaging economies. What will Sri Lanka’s approach be to the post-COVID economy, or as we now say, the ‘New Normal’? Will the decrease in pollution and greenhouse gas emissions be as fleeting as our green-coded AQI index?

From the deserted cross-roads of Pettah to the one-way streets in Kandy, the steady build up of hustle and bustle has already begun. Restrictions have been put in place for public transport and job activities so that the economy can be revived. What of the environment?

While we celebrate the little green victories, it is also distressing that only an immediate and existential threat like the coronavirus led to such a profound change in all of us. But it is up to us at an individual level to make sure this profound change lasts. We can start by considering different reasons for the emissions to drop, and on top of this list is transport, which makes 23% of global carbon emissions, of which driving is a key contributor at 72% around the world. In Sri Lanka, we know that the restricted travel and curfew caused the emissions to decrease, but what now that the measures are steadily lifting?

Social science research shows that interventions are more effective when they take place during moments of change. So what better than this moment of change to invest in more ecofriendly assets? It is a time where we must understand the significance of playing our part in an equation with uncountable variables. It is a time when we focus on maintaining ‘Moderate’ air quality than forcing it to fall back in to ‘Good’. There are two ways to reduce carbon emissions from cars; first is to make vehicles more efficient. Second is to change the fuel used. Now, electric vehicles (EVs) are gaining traction, because they are cleaner than cars running on petrol and they contribute immensely towards environmental stewardship, be it a movement or a trend.

And what’s more, EV-friendly road infrastructure and solutions are already available in Sri Lanka. In 2017 as a pioneer in smart, environmentally friendly energy solutions, JLanka Technologies launched GoEV – a smart EV charging platform that offers multiple services and benefits for the rapidly growing number of EV owners in Sri Lanka – now standing at over 7,000 in total. GoEV features include an online monitoring system, SMS alerts, 24x7 support and much more, with a fully functioning mobile app.

 


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