For a COVID-19 like pandemic, the Achilles heel is an unsuspecting villain – rapid and global land use changes. The way governments, businesses and communities see, relate to and use land, not only influences the outbreak but also determines their impact on humanity and development. Drawing upon empirical evidences from epidemiology and land governance, this article argues why the current situation implores the need to focus on the interaction between land use and global diseases. Apart from dwelling on causal links, we discuss the externalities that industrial, urban and rural development in India are poised to face because of the pandemic’s potential impact on land, biodiversity and wildlife habitat, property rights and housing. We also underline reform options for policy and practice, that must be discussed and acted upon.