Safe forests, safe people: On diseases of animal origin-THE HINDU-03-04-2020


The rapid spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus across the world has focused attention on the seemingly invisible processes that help pathogens originally found in wild animals make the leap to humans. Diseases of animal origin such as Ebola, HIV, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, bird flu and swine flu have raised alarm over potential pandemics in recent years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has confirmed the worst fears of scientists.

As COVID-19 has proved, these short-term high growth trajectories can come to an abrupt halt with a pandemic. Now, a novel virus that can move effortlessly from human to human has found a large reservoir of hosts in a globalised world. Unlike previous epidemics, the latest one has extracted a staggering toll, killing people, forcing a lockdown and causing economic devastation. This should serve as a dire warning to the government that hasty permissions granted for new roads, dams, mines and power projects in already enfeebled forests can unleash more scourges.

There is mounting evidence that environmental protection confers health protection. Pristine forests with diverse species keep viruses virtually bottled up, out of man’s way.

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