Effects of Deforestation and Climate Change for Zoonosis like Coronavirus Crisis

Gautam Kumar Das

Blundering away million hectares of forest lands maddens the nature and the humans blunder along through that cleared forest areas using as land properties unawares. Such deforestation invites zoonotic diseases and simultaneously enhances the effects of global warming and climate change. Nature aware people and send message well enough before any outbreaks due to degradation of the environment, but the people are not aware enough though they are fully aware of the dangers they might have to face. Even the people do not take the lesson from the 1918 flu pandemic, lasting from February 1918 to April 1920 which was expanded all over the world in four successive waves infecting more than 500 million people turning into a deadliest pandemic with death toll of about 17 million. World War I and the associated soldiers were involved on transmission of that Spanish flu, though most of the flu in recent times are reportedly transmitted through zoonosis. During the entire nineteenth century, destruction of forests had been geared up in abrupt manners mainly for the conversion into the agricultural lands to collect more revenues by the British India rulers. Other than such conversion of agricultural lands, part of the forests was cleared for the construction of railways, roads and highways, wooden bridges, wooden houses etc. and consequent upon such deforestation, vector-borne diseases caused by the pathogenic virus, bacteria, parasites, and fungi are transported from the wildlife of the forests to the human societies all along the last centuries.

Deforestation in the present century is rather rapid in progress and increases zoonosis in relatively higher rates than the previous centuries. Zoonosis is the process of transmission of diseases into the human beings caused by the wildlife. Infections into the human beings are transmitted mostly by viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi borne by the wildlife. Transmitted diseases between human beings and wildlife are coronaviruses, rabies, lyme disease, dengue, malaria, chikungunya, Salmonella, E. coli, avian flu, zika, swine flu etc. Destruction of forests has enhanced zoonosis to the humans but leads to increased risk of transmission of such zoonotic diseases to the labour and farmer classes engaged with the clearing of forests including to those who are involved with the trade of wild animals. Zoonotic diseases are highly risky to the poor people who are hired for the clearing of the forests. Transmission of zoonotic diseases has been accelerated with the recent phenomenon of climate change and global warming that have direct impact over the deforestation. Further, zoonosis is not restricted in the cleared forest areas, but it spreads from the tropical areas to the other region through human transmission. Researchers proved that the transmission of wildlife-to-human diseases is directly correlated with the destruction of forests as deforestation replaces the wildlife from their natural habitats. Recent pandemics by the coronaviruses is proved probably to be a wildlife-borne disease that spread in the human systems in almost all the countries in the planet.

Most of the new infectious diseases spread in the human society due to zoonosis like Ebola which is found mostly in and around the recently cleared forest areas. Deforestation degrades the environment causing unsuitable for human habitation where SARS, MERS, Zika, and Ebola are emerged as new infectious diseases. Deforestation causes decline in biodiversity and the degraded biodiversity in association with the impact of climate change results close contact of humans with the zoonotic disease-borne wildlife, though it is yet to prove how far the climate change is related to the origin and transmission of coronaviruses that halt the whole world in 2020. Coronavirus is supposed to be a zoonotic disease and is likely transmitted from the wildlife to the human society. Spreading and containing of infectious zoonotic diseases depends on the health of the planet, the status of which has gradually been depleting because of deforestation. For the combined effects of climate change and deforestation, the planet becomes warmer and more humid conditions accelerate the risk hazards of transmission of infectious diseases in the hot and drier climatic situations. Ultimately, the infectious diseases which are confined in the tropical region, are transported to the other areas like temperate and equatorial region resulting outbreaks of wildlife-borne pathogenic diseases.

Forest conservation including the sustainable agriculture helps to reduce such infectious disease transmission like coronaviruses that become vulnerable to the human society. Human-exposures to the wildlife borne diseases could be reduced only by stopping of deforestation maintaining healthy environment suitable for habitat for wildlife and habitation for human beings. If the people living in the earth fail to take care of the forest and disallow the nature in its status quo for the sustainable future, they would axe their own toes by inviting another pandemic like coronavirus crisis of 2020. Spreading out of more zoonotic diseases combined with the effects of global warming and climate change will take the frontier role again in the ensuing future if the people continue the deforestation. The recent coronavirus pandemics teach us to precede towards nature based solutions with immediate effects to stop the transmission of wildlife-to-human infectious diseases. Only the healthy ecosystems and heathy communities support the zoonosis-free habitation befitted for human living in this planet earth. 

Dec 21, 2020

 Gautam Kumar Das

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