WWF Magyarország

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We cannot avoid epidemics if we work against nature

2020-06-23

While the world is struggling with the aftermath of the coronavirus epidemic, WWF is urging international action in three key areas to prevent the spread of diseases like COVID-19 in the future. In its new report, the NGO uses case studies to support the links between environmental destruction activities and epidemics.

In its report "COVID 19: Urgent call to protect people and nature", WWF explains that the emergence of animal-to-human diseases, i.e. zoonoses, can be linked to nature-damaging activities such as trade and consumption of certain high-risk wild animals and the modification of natural habitats, for example deforestation and intensive, unsustainable agriculture and animal husbandry. This is why many scientists have earlier warned of the possibility of an outbreak of a pandemic, and the World Economic Forum has identified infectious diseases and pandemics as one of the greatest global risks, posing a serious threat to human life.

Deforestation, for example, is a serious problem worldwide: 178 million hectares of forest have been felled globally since 1990, an area equal to Libya. To date, 10 million hectares of forest are destroyed each year, and these areas are used for agriculture or other sectors. One case study examines the link between the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which killed more than 11,000 people, and intensive deforestation. The host species of the virus, the fruit-eating bat species, occur to a greater extent in these fragmented forest areas, which it is easy to reach for the inhabitants, thus contact between man and animals is less avoidable.

There is a lot to do in Hungary as well

Although little research is available in Hungary on the links between human health and natural destruction, land use that ignores the balance of nature, unsustainable agriculture and the wasteful use of our resources are serious problems in Hungary as well. Excessive logging causes irreparable losses year after year in the natural values of our forests, which we all suffer from. Only four percent of domestic forests are where there is no regular logging. Natural, old-growth forests are particularly important for biodiversity, however the mere existence of old stands of some forest types, such as the Great Plain oaks, is in danger.

The natural floodplains of Hungary's rivers originally affected 23 percent of the country, but today more than 90 percent of our rivers and natural floodplains have disappeared as a result of human activity, causing a massive decline in biodiversity. Besides, only less than 20 percent of our surface waters have adequate ecological status.

Therefore, environmental conservation and sustainable operation of certain sectors must play a key role in the economic redesign following the coronavirus epidemic. WWF Hungary has been working in the field and in politics for almost 30 years to ensure that humans live in harmony with nature.

The full report is available by clicking here.