Unplanned urbanisation influenced spread of COVID: New study

Areas with significantly higher HDI, human populations, CO2 emissions, deforestation rates, annual rainfall and seasonal variations resulted in the spread of coronavirus, according to the new study

The research stated that urbanised areas were more vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus than the forested regions and rural areas | Representational image: iStock

Climate change due to “long-term unsustainable patterns” of urbanisation has influenced the spread of coronavirus and its variants globally, a new study has found.

Published in the international journal Environmental Microbiology on July 20, the study by an international research group consisting of scientists from Brazil, India and the USA found that the Betacoronavirus genera, to which SARS-CoV-2 responsible for Covid-19 belongs to, are distributed globally and more occurrences are found in places with high population density, human development index (HDI), emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), pollution, annual rainfall and more seasonal variations.

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Study parameters

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One of the key contributors to this research, Dr Debmalya Barh, a professor (Grade-E) at the department of Genetics, Ecology and Evolution, Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), Brazil, and an honorary scientist of the Institute of Integrative Omics and Applied Biotechnology (IIOAB), West Bengal, told The Indian Express: “We performed global research to understand the influence of key environmental factors in the spread of coronavirus. We used the available genome sequences of different lineages of Orthocoronavirinae (coronavirus constitutes the sub-family Orthocoronavirinae) to understand geo-phylogeny and worldwide distribution of the coronavirus members. Next, eight environmental conditions were mapped to understand what are the key factors responsible for the emergence of the specific coronavirus family at those specific global locations using rigorous quantitative models and robust statistical tests. Our analysis suggests that areas with significantly higher HDI, human populations, CO2 emissions, deforestation rates, annual rainfall, and seasonal variations resulted in the spread of coronavirus.”

Urban areas more vulnerable

The research stated that the urbanised areas were more vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus than the forested regions and rural areas.

Prof Barh said that human activities, including exploitation of forest areas and unplanned urbanisation which leads to excessive pressure on natural resources, have also led to an increase in the spread of coronavirus.

“Increased consumerism (human activity), in general, causes excessive and unnecessary exploitation of wild places and affects the environment in unsustainable patterns. The places where consumerism is more, deforestation, CO2 emissions, human populations and HDI are more, might have been playing a role in the origin of several sub-lineages of the coronavirus in the world,” he said.

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He also emphasised that increased consumerism is not only responsible for the emergence of new coronaviruses but also one of the key contributors to global warming that is accountable for the current worldwide record heat waves. He feels that we are now left with two options: either immediate “collective efforts” to restore the earth’s environment or choose a “collective suicide”.

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