In recent times, the term Emerging Infectious Diseases (EIDs) was making news. Consider the following statements in this context:
1. AIDS, Ebola, Yellow Fever as well as SARS are Emerging Infectious Diseases (EIDs)
2. Deforestation is responsible for deadly outbreaks of Emerging Infectious Diseases (EIDs)
Which among the above is/ are correct statements?

Answer: [C] Both 1 & 2

Deforestation and Emerging Infectious Diseases (EIDs)

Historically, first disease which resulted due to deforestation and increasing contact between humans and the jungle environment was smallpox. It originated in tropical Asia early in the history of animal husbandry and large-scale forest clearing for permanent cropland and human settlements. Even today, mixing of humans, domestic animals and forest animals/ plants has led to development of several Emerging Infectious Diseases (EIDs). This is because – ecologically, the infectious diseases are an extension of host–parasite relationships.

They are integral to an ecosystem as much as a predator–prey or plant–herbivore relationships.

The examples of such diseases are HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Yellow fever, Dengue, Chikungunya, SARS, Rabies, Malaria, Leishmaniasis, Sleeping sickness, Leptospirosis etc. The current Ebola strain has been transmitted from fruit bats to humans. This is evidence that deforestation is responsible for deadly outbreaks of diseases.

An increasing number of studies on EIDs point to changes in land cover and land use, including forest cover change (particularly deforestation and forest fragmentation) along with urbanization and agricultural intensification, as major factors contributing to the surge in infectious diseases. Indeed the current increase coincides with accelerating rates of tropical deforestation in the past several decades.

Today, both deforestation and emerging infectious diseases remain largely associated with tropical regions but have impacts that extend globally. Both are similarly intertwined with issues of economic development, land use and governance, requiring cross-sectoral solutions.

Raising awareness about the health impact of environmental degradation, including deforestation, has an important role to play in keeping these diseases at bay.

This question is a part of GKToday's Integrated IAS General Studies Module