Forest and Water Programme

Lessons learned from COVID-19 crisis to the better management of forest and water resources


The COVID-19 pandemic has suddenly transformed our livesAs society has transitioned to living under lockdown, we have changed the way we connect with each other and with nature. As a result, there have been short-term impacts. In India, the Ganga River has seen a reduction in dumping of industrial and domestic waste, which has resulted in an improvement in its water quality. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, many stretches of the Ganga River now meet drinking water standards. In Venice, the city canals that usually run dark and murky are currently clear and fish can be seen in it. This visible change is a consequence of the decrease in water traffic, allowing sediments to settle in the bottom of the canals. 

The COVID-19 impact on human-nature relationships has also resulted in short term negative consequences. Environmental authorities are facing a reduction in their capacity to implement and enforce environment preservation laws; illegal logging and land conversion is on the rise, taking advantage of the crisis to invade indigenous lands and protected areas. This can contribute to the increase of deforestation and seriously increase the risk of COVID-19 infection among indigenous people.  

The resulting increase in deforestation and forest degradation, can have a direct impact on water, as trees and water are highly interdependent resources. Forested areas regulate streamflow, support groundwater recharge and, through evapotranspiration, contribute to cloud generation and precipitation. They also act as natural water filters, reducing soil erosion and sedimentation of water bodies, thus providing water quality. The changes in land cover cause modification on the hydrology cycle and can affect the ability of soils to absorb and hold water. The removal of ground litter or vegetation cover can result in increased soil erosion, which can lead to increased sediment loading and nutrient pollution of receiving water bodies, and hence a degradation of water quality. 

Changes in water availability and quality may exacerbate existing water security issues. Globally, it is estimated that 1 in 3 people do not have access to safe drinking water, and 4.2 billion people have limited sanitation services. 

There is a level of uncertainty about how long those benefits and negative consequences will persist, but we can learn from this situation: reflecting on how we want our future to look like. How can we improve our relationship with nature? How can we use these lessons to promote better management of our forests and landscapes? Which nature-based solutions can be implemented in order to provide water supply and water security for people? How to create and reap long-term benefits?  

Share your thoughts with us on how we can move forward. Stay connected! Some ideas will be provided in order to answer these questions. Let’s build a better future together.